HANOVER, N.H.—Many people living in northern regions of the United States have experienced getting in a car on a cold, winter morning, turning the key in the ignition and having the engine starter sputter, but not start.
This relatable inconvenience is one that many people have dealt with. However, for U.S. military service members called to action in regions such as northern Alaska, there is no time to deal with a vehicle that won’t start in the extreme cold temperatures.
This is a dilemma that engineers like Kathryn Trubac, a research general engineer for the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), are working to resolve.
“Reliable vehicle start is incredibly important, for army mission goals and especially for military personnel mission response time,” said Trubac. “So we’re investigating next generation battery technologies in hopes to improve the cold-start capabilities of Stryker combat vehicles.”
The Styker has been deployed to combat zones since 2003 and is used in numerous other areas of operation, such as Alaska. It is designed to be a medium-weight vehicle capable of quick deployment and effective maneuverability. So, if a Stryker’s battery is unable to start in extreme cold climates, a fix must be found.
“So far we’ve done several phases of this work and collected some really great data that’s informed us a lot on different technologies and how they function with changes in temperature,” said Trubac. “We’ve been able to identify certain characteristics of these technologies that perform better in the cold than others.”
Trubac tests these batteries inside of CRREL’s Main Lab Cold Rooms Complex, which consists of 26 refrigerated rooms, each varying in size and in other capabilities, that allow for a variety of environmentally controlled experimentation at low temperatures. These laboratory-grade rooms can maintain temperatures from −30°C to over 43°C (−22°F to 110°F) with an additional standalone unit extending to −40°C (−40°F).
“Here at CRREL, we have some of the most amazing facilities,” said Trubac. “Just being able to do the work we do and identify these challenges and try our best to help the warfighter I think is pretty great.”
Currently, Trubac is waiting for the time of year when Fort Wainwright, Alaska, reaches the lowest possible temperatures, so that the batteries can be most effectively field tested.
“Hopefully, all fingers crossed, we’re going to try and get up to go up to Fort Wainwright, throw these in some real Stryker vehicles and collect some real-world field data,” said Trubac.