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TARDEC’s Ultra Light Vehicle (ULV)

It’s no secret that the MOTUS team loves cool off-road trucks. Whether it be civilian or military, we get excited when we people pushing the limits of design and using cutting edge technology. This morning, there was one particular press release in our inbox that caught our attention. TARDEC, which is the U.S. Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, has recently begun testing their latest prototype, the Ultra Light Vehicle (ULV).


The ULV is a hybrid tactical vehicle that was designed from the ground up to be safer, more fuel-efficient, and incredibly versatile to survive in any environment. Using readily available commercial technologies, the ULV took only 16 months from design to build. The project was funded by the Secretary of Defense and it had four main requirements: carry a payload of 4,500 lbs, meet performance objectives with a curb weight no greater than 14,000 lbs, have protection comparable to the current MRAP vehicles, and meet a production price of $250,000 when ordered in a quantity of 5,000 units.


While we found the concept of the ULV and the project objectives interesting, what caught our attention was the vehicle’s hybrid powertrain. The ULV utilizes a combination of two electric motors, one in the front and one in the rear, along with a lightweight turbo diesel engine. The horizontally opposed Subaru Boxer engine powers the electric motors to give the vehicle immediate launch, stealth drive capability, high torque at low speeds, and onboard exportable power generation.

By having electric motors in both the front and rear of the vehicle, the ULV creates a redundant system to insure performance in the field. If either electric engine were to fail, power could be routed to the operational engine to ensure the vehicle can return home safely. This system also provides for the elimination of a traditional driveshaft, thus allowing better armor protection of the vehicle’s underside. The ULV has a top speed of 74 mph and a range of 337 miles when traveling at 35 mph on a flat surface.


The ULV also utilizes a Liquid Spring Compressible Liquid Adaptive Suspension System. This lightweight and intelligent system that provides 18 inches of wheel travel. With automatic ride height adjustment, the vehicle can quickly adapt to the road and terrain. Silicon-based fluids are used to adjust spring stiffness and dampening at each of the four wheels independently. Equipped with Hutchinson Wheels and Mickey Thompson Baja ATZ Radials, the ULV is ready to tackle whatever road, or lack thereof, lay ahead of it.

With hybrid technology being used in this application, one can only begin to imagine the possibilities for other markets like off-road racing. While still economically out of reach for the foreseeable future, the idea of hybrid technology being used for off-road travel is very exciting. Having immediate torque and horsepower, combined with redundant systems to ensure up-time operability, it wouldn’t be surprising to see hybrid competitors in races like the Baja 1000 and the Dakar in the not too distant future. We just need to find a hybrid truck that can do 100 mph plus for a sustained periods of time …

For more information about the TARDEC Ultra Light Vehicle (ULV), visit their website.

Written by

Zach is Editor and Founder of MOTUS. He's also a foodie, off-road and backcountry adventure travel lover, and has coffee running through his veins 24/7.

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