The Army on 2 wheels: towards collective E-lights?

(To Gianluca Celentano)

Today we have returned to talking about bicycles, emphasizing above all their versatility within a team on patrol. The inkling is that it is an "imported concept" from military realities with clearly superior economic resources than Italy, but, as we will see, there are surprising aspects in modern two-wheelers: the e-bike.

First of all, it needs to be understood if we really have the tactical need to take on new vehicle quotas when the financial coverage available to our army often does not allow for the ordinary maintenance of the vehicles already present, the infrastructure used by the personnel and much more. Without forgetting that the concept of a European army is still an unknown factor.

Royal Australian Armored Corps

The regiment is placed within the prestigious Australian Army corps Queensland Mounted Infantry, among the first to believe in the tactical return of the two wheels within the infantry.

Al light horse regiment the Australian military has tested high-powered e-bikes with good results and few of them, given their performance, consider them "bicycles".

The first advantage in tactical use is silence, to which is added the ability to raise less dust on dirt roads, making them much less visible as well as able to evade heat sensors.

We can call them again motorized bicycles, as also happened in Italy at the beginning of the last century, if we consider the declared performance: the speed is higher than that of a moped and stands at 80 km/h thanks to a 6,2 kW motor, which allows pedaling and the use of a 9-speed cycle gearbox. The model name of this has not been provided e-bike, however, according to the news, it seems to be the Australian company SEB, Stealth Electric Bikes.

The total weights with 2kw battery are contained in 50 kg and the autonomy with a single charge is 100 km. As far as noise is concerned, at a speed of 50 km/h the decibels measured are equal to 651.

Curiosity: The Piaggio Ciao moped of which more than 3,5 million units were sold, with its 2% mixture and almost two liters of fuel, did 70 km/l, covering a total of 140 km, a quarter more of the e-bike tested in Australia, really good range!

From Caballero to e-bike

La Fantic Engine is a historic name that was born in '68 in Barzago in Brianza, another Lombard icon that this time begins with the production of engines, later understanding the importance and usefulness of the bicycle. A name that stood out a lot in trial competitions while, remaining on the classic, it was the Men to excite young people of the period with its two 50 and 125 cc 6-speed displacements. Who knows how many memories this commemoration will arouse in many readers!

Since 2003, vicissitudes have led to the transfer of the company and ownership to Treviso and its logo is shortened to Fantic; on the other hand, the objectives of a historic brand that no longer only wants to look at endothermics have expanded. They are in fact the electric propulsion and its e-bike which also affected the Army.

The testers are the Alpini

In March 2021, at the training area of ​​the 6th Alpine regiment of Villa Bassa (BZ), in the presence of the commander of the Alpine troops of the Italian Army gen. Claudio Berto and Dr. Luca Andreoli general manager of Difesa Servizi, and Eng. Mariano Roman managing director of Fantic Motor, n. 9 pedal assisted bicycles e-bike.

The objective reserved for the Alpine brigades Julia e Taurinense is to complete an experiment to understand the characteristics and effectiveness in tactical use "effectiveness". It could be ironic asking where to plug the charging plug in the woods, but thanks to the tests by the Australian military we understand the strategic importance of this solution.

Electric mobility also has interesting implications in exceptional uses and tests in the worst environmental conditions (the cold for the batteries), are used precisely to understand the role to be assigned to silent vehicles. It should also be added that the US Army itself is a forerunner of the return to the folding bicycle used by American paratroopers to which, unbelievable, is added in 2020 the experimentation for a 4-wheel drive tactical scooter - - with powers up to to 18 kW capable of carrying 200 kg and towing a small trailer.

Remaining in the USA already in '44, although with an endothermic engine, the Airborne Infantry Scooter was produced, the Cushman 4 valves and one 242cc cylinder. from 40 miles per hour (65 km/h), the first military scooter.

On the tests, General Berto argues: “The Alpine Troops have in mobility one of the points that substantiate the ability to face the difficulties of operating in a challenging and highly selective environment such as the mountain one. The movement on foot and on skis, although irreplaceable in many circumstances, is only one of the possibilities; technology, forest roads, and the experiences of athletes and two-wheel enthusiasts on trails and dirt roads have opened up the Mountain Bike dimension to us, making a military use of e-bikes possible and plausible even in those places that made effort and slopes inaccessible”2.

From cyclist Bersaglieri to the mechanical mule and even the bike

We started the series “The Army on 2 wheels” with the first mopeds, which were otherwise very uncomfortable, which gradually supplanted the bicycles of the Bersaglieri, however contributing to motorize the armed force. Then, in tactical contexts absolutely not comparable to the war strategies of 2022, an attempt was made to send the good and faithful mules on leave, replacing them with the heavy and in many ways bankruptcy mule-mechanical tricycle.

Today with the e-bike Will it be possible to go back to the origins of the collective mobility of specialist platoons? Perhaps yes, and it would be considered an evolution, albeit a poorly digested one, by someone who believes that in terms of much more specialized and versatile means, the priorities of the armed force could be different. Just to give an example: finding resources for repairs…

The Alpini, an elite

The evolution of the 4th Alpine Army Corps and the establishment of the alpine troop command they have always been synonymous with dynamism, effort and ability in the most hostile territories, qualities that make the Alpini versatile in various areas of use, not just the mountain ones. Their training program is among the busiest in the military and among these are off-road driving sessions with high mobility vehicles, 4x4, 6x6, 8x8, ATV and Quad. The 6th Alpine Regiment has long since stipulated an important framework agreement for collaboration and exchange of experiences with Academy 4x4 of Trento, a renowned driving school whose objective is advanced training and safety in driving highly mobile vehicles.

Extra light the evolution of the motorcycle?

I quad with four-wheel drive that can be engaged, they are in themselves a good choice for travel and patrolling, and some experts of this type of vehicle argue: the quad it is not dangerous for the quad rider, but the quad rider is for the quad. However, the danger of quad it is not in its slower speed than a motorcycle, but in theoff road where it is necessary to estimate rollovers which almost always occur at very low speeds.

Interesting and much more stable, given the different track and length measurements, are the side by side also known as SxS or SSV, a real UTV (utility terrain vehicle). They are vaguely reminiscent of electric vehicles used on golf courses, but are actually amazing. They too come from the USA as a military (and civil) mobility system, but the most important differences that distinguish them from the quad are substantial. In addition to being more stable, they are small 4x4 off-road vehicles that are not driven by riding the saddle, but travel on a containing seat, allowing (and optimizing) the simultaneous transport of a team of up to 6 soldiers. They are protected by a rollbar and offer a significant load and towing margin depending on the type of trim and power supply, including electric.

Read the first part "The Army on two wheels: from bicycles to motorcycles"

Read second part "The Army on 2 wheels: motorization expands"

Read the second part (bis) "The Army on 2 wheels: The success of motorbikes “Throbbing Irrrompo"

Read the third part: "The Army on 2 wheels: logistical roles for motorcycles"

1 source: Australian Army Trials Electric Bike

2  Source: Opinion news agency

Photo: Italian Army / Australia DoD