DoD Starts Prototyping Commercial Lithium Batteries for Aviation, Ground Vehicle and Soldier Power

Under the new Family of Advanced Standard Batteries (FAStBat) project, the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and several other agencies are funding the development of lithium-ion battery prototypes for common-use applications across three domains: soldier-portable systems, ground vehicles, and aviation.

Other agencies that are partnering with DIU on the FAStBat project include the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the U.S. Army’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center and Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC), the Department of the Navy Operational Energy (DON-OE) and Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD). The agencies believe the new initiative can resolve the Department of Defense's (DoD) current supply chain challenges, sole source dependency concerns, variable procurement practices, and high costs that all contribute to life-cycle management challenges for DoD batteries.

“These investments are targeted at meeting the Department’s largest battery demand needs,” says Eric Shields, Senior Battery Advisor for Industrial Base Policy, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition & Sustainment. “Not only will FAStBat accelerate the adoption of domestic commercial technologies by DOD Programs of Record, but these formats will also be foundational as we build interoperable solutions with our allies and partners.”

In 2023, DIU issued the first of 10 FAStBat awards to standardize lighter, safer, and longer-life batteries for dismounted warfighters. Operational loads with tactical electronics — sometimes requiring multiple forms of energy storage — can include as much as 20 pounds of batteries.

FAStBat is also awarding companies to prototype a lithium version of the six-ton battery that today powers 80-90 percent of ground vehicles, according to Laurence Toomey, Branch Chief at U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, Ground Vehicle Systems Center.

One of the biggest goals for the FAStBat program is to develop new versions of the 18650 lithium ion battery cell, which has been used by DoD in a variety of mobile platforms for several decades, including aircraft and ground vehicles. FAStBat is awarding companies to prototype standard aviation batteries to address power needs, cost and redundancy in helicopters and fighter jets, to include the following:

  • NanoGraf will prototype a high-energy, rugged and scalable 18650 cell design that promises to lighten load for warfighters. Planned North American production of NanoGraf cells incorporating novel silicon anode material is expected to alleviate supply chain risk for thousands of fielded DOD systems.
  • Bren-Tronics, Inc. will partner with DIU to develop and manufacture rechargeable battery packs using high-capacity, safety-tested cells. These batteries power communications equipment, sensors, surveillance equipment, thermal imagers and robotic systems critical to tactical missions.
  • EXO Charge, a division of Xentris Wireless, will prototype the Small Tactical Universal Battery (STUB) that allows warfighters to swap batteries between devices, or transfer power between batteries, a game-changer for mobility in combat.
  • Enersys will adapt their commercial prismatic lithium-ion cell chemistry and proven DOD / Space 18650 cell designs to prototype a high-energy Li6T battery. Leveraging the economies of scale from Enersys’ commercial production capabilities will provide DOD with a high-quality domestic source of cells at a competitive price.
  • Teledyne Technologies will prototype Common Affordable and Safe Energy Storage (CASES) batteries using their novel cell cooling technology engineered for the highest safety and cycle life. Teledyne and the CASES program will afford enhanced capabilities for strike, air superiority, ISR and countermeasure missions.

By 2027 DIU anticipates FAStBat will support full North American production of 18650 cells for the common family of military batteries supporting warfighters.