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Oshkosh Attacks The Baja 1000

Testing a New Tactical Diesel-Electric Hybrid

Text By Jason Thompson, Photography by Courtesy of Oshkosh

The Baja 1000 is a two-day, 1,000-mile, off-road race that takes place every year in Mexico. It's one of the most grueling motorsports events in the world. During a good year, only 58 percent of the vehicles that start the race ever cross the finish line. So when Oshkosh Defense entered two of its prototype hybrid Light Concept Vehicles (LCVs) in the 43rd Annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 race-we knew it had something to prove.

Hybrid Torture Test
Oshkosh entered the Baja 1000 to test its new ProPulse drive system technology. This diesel-electric hybrid powertrain relieves the diesel engine from its traditional task of micromanaging the power sent to the wheels. Instead, the ProPulse drive system couples a 400hp 6.6L Duramax built by Gale Banks Engineering with an electric generator so the diesel can operate in its optimal power and efficiency range.

The electric power from the generator is then sent to the A/C traction motors located at the front and rear differentials. There are videos (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ufskxHysJM) that capture the LCV in action. It's intimidating to hear this vehicle go down the racecourse because it sounds like nothing you've heard before. Instead of an engine screaming and struggling to negotiate rough terrain, the LCV just hums along without a change in demeanor.

Behind The Wheel
l Legendary off-road racer Glenn Harris, who piloted one of the LCV trucks, said, "This vehicle thrived where most vehicles have the toughest time in the adverse terrain. We didn't get stuck once-and the LCV cruised over the silt beds and powered through flooded washes that got deeper and deeper with each passing vehicle."

Diesel-Electric Advantage
The ProPulse system is said to increase fuel economy in rough terrain, as compared to non-hybrids. Another benefit is there are less moving parts to fail. Keep in mind that this system does not need a transmission, transfer case, or driveshafts. There are also no batteries to maintain or replace.

This Oshkosh truck uses ultracapacitors to deliver bursts of power for acceleration. Regenerative braking recharges the ultracapacitors, which are faster at charging and discharging electricity than heavier batteries. This system also reduces maintenance, since the brakes won't wear out as fast, and the full-electric drive applies the torque closer to the wheels-where the work gets done.

Oshkosh claims the ProPulse system reduces the vehicle's emissions and is extremely safe to work on, as the stored electrical power can be depleted easily. On top of all that, this vehicle also has the ability to generate enough power to run your average neighborhood, hospital, or command center.

Finish Line
Unfortunately, only one of the Oshkosh LCVs completed the 1,061-mile Baja 1000 course. And it took that truck (called M2) more than the allotted time for the race. That's not the diesel-takes-all-victory we're accustomed to-but not bad for the inaugural run of a pair of vehicles demonstrating radical new technology. We can only hope Oshkosh returns to the Baja 1000 next year for a rematch.

SOURCES
Oshkosh Defense
2307 Oregon St.
Oshkosh
WI  54902
920-235-9150
http://www.oshkoshdefense.com
By Jason Thompson
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