Volvo’s French defense and security vehicle firm Arquus recently unveiled their candidate to become France’s new general-purpose troop-carrying vehicle: the Scarabée. While this platform has a lot in common with America’s long-serving workhorse Humvee, it’s got a few tricks up its sleeve that have never been seen on the battlefield before.
The goal behind developing the Scarabée was renegotiating the compromise inherent to all armored vehicles: as the level of protection for the occupant increases, the platform’s mobility decreases. As anyone that’s ever gone for a rip in an up-armored Humvee can attest, the protection provided by the Humvee comes at a significant cost when you stomp on the pedal — during my days in uniform, we regularly joked that the Humvee’s 0-60 time and quarter mile time were actually exactly the same… kidding (somewhat honestly) that it would take at least a full quarter mile for the heavy lug to reach 60 miles per hour at all. The Humvee’s poor acceleration can be attributed to physics and simple arithmetic: when you divide it’s weight by its power, you get a paltry 20 horsepower to push each ton.
“We really worked on the speed because that is also a form of protection,” Emmanuel Levacher, the chief executive of Arquus, explains. “If you put a lot of protective armor on a vehicle it makes it very heavy, big, and therefore slow unless you give it a large, powerful engine—in which case you no longer have a small, agile military vehicle.”
The Scarabée weighs in at 6.6 tons empty, meaning it’s not particularly light either, but the combination of its 300-horsepower diesel engine and supplemental 103 horsepower electric motor offers it a far superior 60 horsepower per ton. Its top speed may not be all that much better than the Humvee’s (Arquus claims 75 miles per hour) but its acceleration is. According to its designers, you can engage both diesel and electric powerplants simultaneously to get the vehicle moving fast enough to evade an incoming anti-tank missile from a dead stop.