In recent years, the military of several countries of the world has become interested in ecological modes of transport, including hybrid, hydrogen, and electric cars and motorcycles.
On 27 July, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) announced that it has begun exploring greener transport as it trials electric utility bikes at Waiouru to determine their suitability for military use. The bikes are specially built by the Tauranga-based company UBCO, and the NZDF is specifically looking at adapting the company’s 2×2 utility bike.
The purpose of these trails is to test what tasks such motorcycles can perform in the military and their suitability in areas such as reconnaissance and surveillance, airfield security, and other transport roles.
The electric motorcycles weigh 65 kilograms, which is much lighter than normal military motorcycles. They are equipped with an air-cooled, brushless, DC 1 kW-motor in each wheel hub, powered by UBCO’s Portage battery. The battery is a 48 Ah-rated, 50-volt lithium-ion power pack that charges fully in 6 to 8 hours. With the use of regenerative braking, the range of motorcycles is approximately 120 km (around 75 miles) per battery charge.
“Obviously they (electric utility bikes) are more environmentally friendly, and we will see if they are also more military friendly,” says Lieutenant Colonel Brad Gallop in the blog post. “We will see how good they are for carrying equipment where a soldier on foot might not be able to. They are quiet, don’t give off exhaust or heat, and aren’t powered by highly flammable liquids.“
He also added that the UBCO bikes would be limited to 50kmh and have lower training requirements to that of a motorcycle.
The New Zealand military received motorcycles in camouflage colors, with extra battery packs, a trailer, and a range of spare parts. Motorcycles will be tested over the next year, after which the Ministry of Defense may decide on their acceptance into service. The testing will be conducted across all branches of the New Zealand Armed Forces – Army, Navy, and Air Force.