In his rally speeches, former President Donald Trump has added a new claim to his repertoire: the Biden administration is switching the military to all-electric tanks. For Trump, the attack line is a trifecta: he is making the military appear “woke,” weakening President Joe Biden’s defense position, and making fun of Biden’s green energy initiatives.
It’s untrue as well. As of right now, the military has no plans to use all-electric tanks.
Starting with light-duty, non-tactical vehicles, the military is transitioning its fleet of vehicles to electric power, citing not only cost and operational advantages but also environmental benefits. The military hopes to transition to entirely electric tactical vehicles by 2050 as part of its Climate Strategy, which was unveiled in 2022. However, that does not even cover combat vehicles like tanks.
However, Trump has deceptively capitalized on the military’s endeavor by fabricating the assertion that a campaign to convert the majority of military vehicles to electric would involve tanks.
At a campaign rally outside of Miami on November 8, the same night as a GOP presidential primary debate that he did not attend, Trump declared, “And now we are a nation that wants to make our great Army tanks all-electric so that despite the fact that they will not be able to go very far, fewer pollutants will be released into the air of the territory that we are trying to conquer.”
Trump asserted the same thing on November 2 at a campaign rally in Houston.
“Army tanks need to switch to electric power because, in the event that they are electric, they will blast through a nation.” But at least we’re approaching it sustainably,” Trump said to the assembly.
The issue with the tanks, however, is that the battery source capacity is so large that the tank would have to pull something much larger than the tank in order to operate. Thus, that presents a small issue,” Trump went on. They are unable to resolve that. For environmental reasons, they want to convert all of our Army tanks to electric power.
However, Trump’s assumption is false once more.
The Army does not intend to field or deploy electric tanks, despite the fact that hybrid tank prototypes have been seen, according to Fabian Villalobos, an associate engineer at RAND Corporation and an authority on emerging technologies and the defense industrial base, who spoke with us over the phone.
However, the military is shifting to electric cars. Reducing the threats to national security that climate change poses is one of the goals of the Army’s 2022 Climate Strategy. Another is to have a fleet of light-duty, non-tactical, all-electric vehicles by 2027 and a fleet of non-tactical, all-electric vehicles by 2035.
The Army intends to transition to “purpose-built hybrid-drive tactical vehicles by 2035 and fully electric tactical vehicles by 2050,” according to the plan. The Army also states that it will “develop the charging capability to meet the needs of fully electric tactical vehicles by 2050” in addition to that objective.
Let’s dissect that and clarify the various vehicle types that are impacted, none of which are tanks.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks estimated that in 2022 the Department of Defense will have about 170,000 non-tactical vehicles. Usually, these are cars that are driven on military installations. Furthermore, the General Services Administration of the government, not the armed forces, is the one who purchases them.
Cars and sport utility vehicles are examples of light-duty, non-tactical vehicles, which the Climate Strategy stated would be entirely electric by 2027.
“These are the cars you would drive to go from one building to another on a military installation or base,” Villalobos explained. On the battlefield, they are not to be used.
According to Villalobos, the remaining non-tactical vehicles, which the plan calls for being entirely electric by 2035, include things like pickup trucks, vans, and Class 3, 4, and 5 vehicles, which include some vans and smaller trucks. Additionally, they are only to be used on base and not in combat.
It will be more difficult to convert to electric tactical vehicles; therefore, the Climate Strategy calls for the fleets to be converted to hybrids by 2035 and to electric vehicles entirely by 2050. On the battlefield, tactical vehicles are usually employed in support capacities. According to Villalobos, those are not the same as combat vehicles, which are the ones that fire weapons at the opposition.
He declared, “Tactical definitely does not mean tanks.”
With the exception of some “niche roles,” “the technology is not ready for tactical vehicles because it requires incredibly heavy and bulky infrastructure for power generation and charging,” according to a December article by Walker Mills and Ryan Wiechens published by the Modern War Institute at West Point.
Mills is a nonresident fellow with the Irregular Warfare Initiative and the Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Future War at Marine Corps University. As a member of the technical staff in the MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s energy systems group, Wiechens oversees the group’s work on vehicle electrification, hybrid power systems, and modular, scalable tactical microgrids.
They contend in their article that there are “obvious tactical and financial benefits” to the military switching to electric vehicles.
They stated that switching to electric and hybrid vehicles for the military shouldn’t be contentious because it will increase the lethality of our forces and save costs. “Yes, it will assist in addressing the climate crisis as well, but that is merely one benefit that
which also include assisting in reducing the reliance of US forces on foreign oil.
In a military conflict, switching to electric fleets “absolutely does have its advantages,” according to Villalobos.
He mentioned that they are “more stealthy and harder to detect,” for instance. They are especially well-suited for “silent watch,” which are dangerous missions meant to obtain intelligence on an adversary covertly. Compared to internal combustion engines, electric vehicles are quieter and produce no smoke from the exhaust.
However, the military’s intention to switch to electric power has sparked some controversy, especially among Republicans.
Sen. Joni Ernst stated that Biden’s “cheerleading for green tech… has harmed the DOD’s operational energy approach” during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 26.
Ernst pointed out that “China controls mining and production for electric vehicle components” as the military converts its non-tactical fleet to electric power.
The administration has taken steps to accelerate “responsible extraction here,” according to Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, and to increase domestic battery pack manufacturing.
Granholm declared her support for the switch to non-tactical electric vehicles.
“I do believe that reducing our reliance on the volatility of globally traded fossil fuels does not contribute to energy security,” the speaker stated. “We know that global events, like the war in Ukraine, can jack up prices for people back home.” “I believe we can achieve energy security when we have abundant, clean, domestic energy sources.”
Ernst was not the only one to criticize the shift to electric vehicles, citing issues with cost and dependability.
Republican Sen. Markwayne Mullin issued a dire warning on April 28 during an interview with Fox Business, stating that “one simple electric magnetic pulse” could “take out a whole unit of vehicles, of tanks, of up-armored vehicles.”
Mullin stated, “Aside from that, we’re going to be on battlefields where they really don’t have what you would consider charging stations.” We will therefore be dragging these massive diesel generators in order to charge the fleet. We will also need to wait for hours for these batteries to charge when they run out of fuel rather than just running up there and filling them.
Republican Representative Mike Waltz expressed concern in an opinion piece that appeared in the Washington Examiner on June 22 that Biden’s climate plan would “cripple the military’s readiness for our next conflict.” Waltz stated that American supply chains “aren’t suited to sustain such an overwhelming transition” in reference to the proposal to convert the non-tactical fleet to electric vehicles.
In addition, he penned, “How would we manage an electric car fleet in, say, the Afghan or Iraqi deserts or mountains? As of the last time I looked, charging stations are not located in the middle of battlegrounds.
According to Villalobos, the military is fully aware that before electric vehicles can be utilized in combat, field charging capabilities must be developed. He mentioned that by 2050, the objective for electric tactical vehicles also
Moreover, “the charging capability to meet the needs of fully electric tactical vehicles by 2050” must be developed.
Villalobos remarked, “It’s not like they are putting electric charging stations in the battlefield; there aren’t even any gas stations there.”
Regarding the danger posed by electric magnetic pulses, Villalobos pointed out that military vehicles that run on petroleum already depend on electric gadgets and microchips. He said, “It wouldn’t increase or decrease the risk either way.”
Mills and Wiechens admit that “there are real challenges to electrification and hybridization of the military’s ground vehicles” in their paper for the Modern War Institute.
The authors stated, “Batteries are obviously a critical component, and they are primarily manufactured outside of the United States and rely on raw materials like lithium, cobalt, and other elements that are sourced and refined outside of the United States.” “In a major conflict, this could completely cut off the defense industrial base from vital supplies, resulting in a weak and brittle supply chain during peacetime. While producing more electric cars for consumers will support the vital battery industry, it may also put military production in competition. Over the next few years, it is anticipated that a number of new domestic battery manufacturing facilities will open, which will be essential for promoting domestic electrification. In a similar vein, increasing lithium and other essential material sources are essential to enabling the military’s electrification.
We don’t have an opinion on whether switching to electric vehicles is a good idea or not, or on whether the United States can accelerate its supply chains to support the electrification of military vehicle fleets. Trump makes no mention of those issues. Rather, he disparages the viability of such a move and claims that Biden is requiring the switch to all-electric tanks for environmental reasons. However, that is not the Army’s intention.