Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Better Gas Mileage, Thanks to the Pentagon

Detroit eyes new fuel technologies being developed for tanks
A new Pentagon lab that shares research with carmakers occupies a site where Chrysler built tanks during World War II
A new Pentagon lab that shares research with carmakers occupies a site where Chrysler built tanks during World War IIPhotograph by Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

U.S. automakers have until 2025 to raise the fuel economy on their cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon—double the current standard—or face government fines. The industry has spent years pouring billions of dollars into research and development to comply with the mandate. Now it may get a boost from an unexpected source: the Pentagon.

Government researchers at a new $60 million laboratory are road-testing dozens of alternative fuel technologies for fighting vehicles, from converting body heat into electricity to perfecting fuel cells that transform hydrogen into power—and they plan to share them with U.S. carmakers. “The military operates in very extreme environments,” says Al Schumacher, assistant associate director of ground vehicle power and mobility at the military’s Tank Automotive Research and Development and Engineering Center. “If we can make these vehicles function” under those conditions, “we should be able to implement them in commercial applications that are cheaper and very reliable.”