The drive for more fuel-efficient cars reaches beyond the garages of the U.S. populace and into military motor pools. Under a development contract with the U.S. Army, Ricardo, an international engineering firm, has finished building its first take on a new light tactical vehicle. One of the primary goals of the FED Alpha, which stands for Fuel Efficient Ground Vehicle Demonstrator, is to be more fuel efficient than current Army vehicles.
To reach this goal, the FED Alpha relies on a four-cylinder Cummins diesel engine and Goodyear low rolling resistance tires. Gears in the drive line use a special finish to help reduce friction. By contrast, the Humvee, currently in wide use by the Army, uses a 6.2-liter V-8 diesel engine. No figures have been released for the FED Alpha's actual fuel economy.
Ricardo also engineered weight reduction into the FED Alpha through the use of aluminum, not only for the vehicle structure but also in the armor and lower blast shield.
Other innovations found in the civilian market that make their way into the FED Alpha are an accelerator feedback system and a fuel economy display, both designed to help drivers pilot the vehicle more efficiently. A six-speed automatic transmission allows for lower engine speeds at higher road speeds. The Humvee's transmission only has four gears.
The Alpha in the name means that this vehicle is a first build, and is currently undergoing testing at the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. The U.S. subsidiary of Ricardo developed the FED Alpha in conjunction with the U.S. Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center.
Other automotive work by Ricardo includes building the engine for the new McLaren MP4-12C supercar.