Humvees are synonymous with transporting troops on the
ground during times of war. The ubiquitous workhorses are also pretty lacking
when it comes to protection from enemy fire and improvised explosive
The U.S. Army in conjunction with AM General Corp. and TPI
Composites Inc. are looking to composite materials to give its soldiers a
better chance at surviving treacherous working conditions on Iraq.
Its latest test bed is a Humvee that features
a frame and body made of composite materials. Resin material is used to
bond together balsa wood, carbon reinforcements, fiberglass and foam. The use
of composite materials on the Humvee shaves 900 pounds off the usual 10,000 to
12,000 pound vehicle weight.
"We can put the strength where we need it," said
TPI Composites CEO Steven Lockard. "Every pound of weight we save, that
weight is being added back to the vehicle in armor and mine-blast
Additional armor could be placed under and around the cabin
area of the Humvee to protect the passengers, while the composites materials alone
could be used for the hood and fenders.
Predictably, the new composite-bodied Humvees are slightly
more expensive than their conventional counterparts and the Army still hasn't
made a firm commitment to purchasing the vehicles.
With that said, TPI Composites is fully prepared should the
Army give the company the green light. "We could ramp up pretty quickly to
most any volume that would be desired," said Lockard.
quote: In a thirty-five m.p.h. crash test, for instance, the driver of a Cadillac Escalade—the G.M. counterpart to the Lincoln Navigator—has a sixteen-per-cent chance of a life-threatening head injury, a twenty-per-cent chance of a life-threatening chest injury, and a thirty-five-per-cent chance of a leg injury. The same numbers in a Ford Windstar minivan—a vehicle engineered from the ground up, as opposed to simply being bolted onto a pickup-truck frame—are, respectively, two per cent, four per cent, and one per cent.