WARREN, Mich. (April 12, 2012) -- More than 300 government, industry and academic leaders converged on the Detroit Arsenal here for the grand opening of the Army's one-of-a-kind Ground Systems Power and Energy Laboratory, known as the GSPEL complex, April 11.
A panel of distinguished Army leaders, accompanied by the nation's top energy officials and Michigan's U.S. Senate delegation, were on hand to open the doors of the 30,000-square-foot facility, which houses eight state-of-the-art laboratories and will provide unprecedented ground-vehicle testing and evaluation capabilities for the Army and its partners.
"The work done at the GSPEL will make our Soldiers' loads lighter, reduce their energy requirements, and reduce the number of Soldiers we put into harm's way to supply energy," said Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal. "This facility will not only make us more efficient and save resources, but will save lives in combat as well."
INCREASING EFFICIENCY, SAVING LIVES
Located at the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, GSPEL will provide the Army's experts with the ability to test vehicle systems and components under a variety of conditions, leading to more efficient and mobile Army ground vehicles.
"The testing, knowledge, and technologies that will be developed right here at GSPEL will help reduce Soldier risk and enhance overall vehicle performance," said Maj. Gen. Kurt J. Stein, commander of the TACOM Life Cycle Management Command. "In addition to improving fuel efficiency, this facility will be working hard to reduce fuel consumption, expand our use of renewable and alternative energy, ensure access to sufficient energy supplies, and minimize environmental impacts."
The GSPEL opens at a time when improving operational energy is one of the Army's top goals, and energy security is a high priority to the nation as a whole. With one incident resulting from every 46 resupply convoys in Afghanistan, the need to improve fuel efficiency can have life-saving implications, officials said.
"About 80 percent of the convoys that are traveling on the roads of Afghanistan right now are carrying fuel, and all of those Soldiers are now exposed as they move in those convoys on those dangerous roads, and they're exposed to improvised explosive devices," said Lt. Gen. Raymond V. Mason, Army deputy chief of staff for logistics.
"We've got to reduce those convoys and make our commanders more flexible and adaptable, and cut our energy costs," Mason said. "We need to find ways to save energy and, most importantly, put our Soldiers at less combat risk. This lab is where we will do that. We're counting on this lab to drive energy innovation to demonstrate to the American people that the Army team, and the other services as well, are good stewards of our precious energy resources."
The knowledge gained from the testing at the GSPEL will ultimately result in improved vehicle components and systems, making vehicles more mission-effective and saving Soldiers' lives, Sharon E. Burke, assistant secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs.
"We all want to make sure that all of the work here gets into the hands of Soldiers," Burke said. "That is our challenge: to make sure we field and widely deploy what you come up with."
NEW CAPABILITIES, INCREASED POSSIBILITIES
The grand opening celebrated the culmination of eight years of planning. Initially developed to move several of TARDEC's Ground Vehicle Power and Mobility laboratories into a single location on the Detroit Arsenal, the concept evolved to include eight state-of-the-art laboratories that will expand the Army's capabilities in cutting-edge power, energy and mobility technology for all current and emerging vehicle classes, officials said.
They added that the new facility will enhance the testing capabilities of TARDEC, one of U.S. Army RDECOM's eight research, development and engineering centers.
"This GSPEL Laboratory complex is less a new beginning and grand opening, and more a bold statement by our nation's Army about its role and duty in accelerating energy security," said Dr. Grace M. Bochenek, chief technology officer for the Army Materiel Command, and former TARDEC director. "It's a statement of commitment, of progress, and a vivid symbol of the way we do business in this ground-vehicle community."
The building's centerpiece is the Power and Energy Vehicle Environmental Lab, or PEVEL, one of the world's most unique test chambers. This environmental laboratory will allow for full mission profile testing under various environmental conditions, including temperatures ranging from minus 60 to 160 degrees F, relative humidity of up to 95 percent and wind speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.
The PEVEL can also accommodate hybrid-electric and fuel-cell vehicles, and researchers can simulate terrain information for various proving grounds and locations throughout the world, replicating almost any road condition in a controlled environment.
"Without leaving metro Detroit, the Army can now perfectly simulate a scorching desert day in Afghanistan or a bone-chilling day in Antarctica with some relatively simple adjustments in temperature, humidity, wind speed and solar simulator controls," Bochenek continued. "Those extreme environmental conditions are paired with equipment that controls and measures power transfer at different points on a vehicle, enabling drive-train modifications to ensure the most efficient energy transfer possible no matter what the weather.
"Best of all, with one lab complex, it is now possible to test every manned and unmanned wheeled vehicle in the U.S. military fleet. This breadth and depth in one location means new and unparalleled access to data to define new capability and innovation in vehicle power and technology."
COLLABORATION: KEY TO SUCCESS
Located in the heart of the automotive industry, the GSPEL is more than just an Army asset, officials said. The Department of Defense and the Department of Energy are both pursuing advancements in energy efficiency and alternative energy.
In July 2011, the Department of Energy and the Department of the Army came together under the Advanced Vehicle Power Technology Alliance to explore solutions for decreasing petroleum dependence, increasing fuel efficiency and enhancing the nation's energy-security infrastructure.
The GSPEL will provide opportunities for partners in government, industry and academia to leverage the facility in pursuit of these dual-use benefits.
"This facility will not only help the Army carry out its mission, but also help the nation as a whole achieve its energy-security goals, which is extremely important," said John Holdren, assistant to the president for science and technology, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. "It's one of the highest priorities of this administration, alongside economic recovery and job creation, and those issues are connected."
As advancements in hybrid-electric vehicles, energy-storage systems and alternative energy develop, the Army and its partners both stand to benefit.
"The ability for the Army to operate on a variety of fuels will enhance our overall performance goals and our national security posture," said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment. "[GSPEL] will give our nation the tools to continue development of these cutting-edge technologies, solutions for our vehicles and solutions for our warfighters."
As power and energy continue to be pressing concerns for the Army and nation, officials said the GSPEL will lead the way in testing, evaluating and fielding systems that will improve vehicle performance and, ultimately, save lives.
"Many years ago power and energy was a capability that was frankly taken for granted," said TARDEC Interim Director Jennifer Hitchcock. "It wasn't too long ago that people scratched their heads when we began driving power and energy as a focal point, because energy wasn't the priority it is today. But thanks to visionary foresight, the right conditions, the right leadership and the countless numbers of dedicated people along the way, we're here."
The eight laboratories within GSPEL are:
• Fuel Cell Lab
• Energy Storage Lab
• Electric Components Lab
• Calorimeter Lab
• Air Filtration Lab
• Thermal Management Lab
• Power Lab.