Achieving Fuel Efficiency in the MGCS Combat Tank via Hybridization

Major Franco-German Project Requires Technological and Political Backing

Joerg Huettenhoelscher / Alamy
The German Armed Forces’ successor to the Leopard tank has been in the pipeline for a long time. Very specific ideas even exist with respect to its equipment. But when it comes to actually implementing the Franco-German project, the European undertaking urgently needs to resolve both technological challenges and political issues. VINCORION Insights spoke with Managing Director Dr. Stefan Stenzel about both of these.

“Main Ground Combat System” is the powerful name that has been given to the tank of the future. Whereby “tank” doesn’t go far enough. In fact, German and French mechatronics companies are working on components and systems for a platform for various high-power directed-energy weapons that can also maneuver autonomously in reconnaissance and combat situations and is part of a digitally connected defense system. The objective is to send the German Armed Forces’ current Leopard tank into its well-deserved retirement. This is because, in addition to new equipment with state-of-the-art weapon systems and innovative armor, the new deployment scenarios require, above all, a power system that guarantees an uninterrupted on-board supply and the most efficient method of propulsion.

Hybrid High-Voltage Power Systems

“And we’ve already gained considerable experience in this area with the Puma,” emphasizes Dr. Stefan Stenzel. Mechatronics expert VINCORION has installed a 170 kW high-voltage power system in the 350 tanks shipped so far. And it’s already possible to easily achieve up to 500 kW today. “This is equivalent to a small CHP plant,” Stenzel explains. The only difference is that the MGCS is not meant to supply the troops of the German Armed Forces with power, but to move silently through the terrain with plenty of power.

Silent and Ready for Action in a Flash

The solution is a parallel hybrid concept consisting of a diesel engine, an electrical machine in four-quadrant operation, power electronics, and a high-voltage battery. The components are connected via the powertrain to generate maximum power during torque peaks, thereby achieving optimal performance with minimum fuel consumption. Thanks to the battery, the tank actually moves almost silently in creep mode. When subsequently switching to full power, a battery-powered electric motor ultimately counteracts weaknesses of the diesel engine such as turbo lag, as this combination guarantees instant torque to the drive shaft.

The hybrid power system is the most efficient solution not only for the propulsion of the MGCS, but also for the on-board power systems or the operation of the high-power directed-energy weapons. It could become a reality by 2035 – with the support of German and French suppliers. “We have plenty of expertise in that area. The important thing now is to quickly pool the existing expertise and find common ground,” explains Dr. Stefan Stenzel.

“Made in Europe” Needs “Made in Germany”

“At this point in time, however, German leaders are not representing our interests vis-à-vis our partner France forcefully enough.” His observation is that an increasing number of market participants are leaving the German defense market and moving abroad. “And yet the desired major European projects also need the German defense industry – otherwise these major projects with German funding will simply turn into job creation programs for France.” And that applies to the MGCS as well.

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