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Come Saturday Morning: How the Pentagon Can Save the World

Believe it or not, the various parts of the Pentagon are big fans of renewable energy and energy-saving concepts and devices — and since they can command enormous budgets, it’s a very good thing in this age of otherwise-nonexistent venture capital that they’re interested in this device being developed at MIT:

A team of MIT undergraduate students has invented a shock absorber that harnesses energy from small bumps in the road, generating electricity while it smooths the ride more effectively than conventional shocks. The students hope to initially find customers among companies that operate large fleets of heavy vehicles. They have already drawn interest from the U.S. military and several truck manufacturers.

Senior Shakeel Avadhany (pictured in lead image, top left) and his teammates say they can produce up to a 10 percent improvement in overall vehicle fuel efficiency by using the regenerative shock absorbers. The company that produces Humvees for the army, and is currently working on development of the next-generation version of the all-purpose vehicle, is interested enough to have loaned them a vehicle for testing purposes.


In their testing so far, the students found that in a 6-shock heavy truck, each shock absorber could generate up to an average of 1 kW on a standard road — enough power to completely displace the large alternator load in heavy trucks and military vehicles, and in some cases even run accessory devices such as hybrid trailer refrigeration units.

They filed for a patent last year and formed a company, called Levant Power Corp., to develop and commercialize the product (pictured below, right). They are currently doing a series of tests with their converted Humvee to optimize the system’s efficiency. They hope their technology will help give an edge to the military vehicle company in securing the expected $40 billion contract for the new army vehicle called the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV.

It occurs to me that we could fund a lot of things useful or desirable for civilians by slapping some camo on them and sneaking them into the Pentagon budget.   (See CAT-1 picture above.)  In fact, if we took some existing military-related programs — such as the VA hospital system, which was left to rot under the "military friendly" Reagan and Bush I but which was seriously refurbished and upgraded under "evil draft dodger" Clinton — and opened them to the public, that would make a rather neat and cost-effective plan for easing overall health care costs.

So what civilian things would you want to see smuggled onto the Pentagon’s sacred "third rail" budget?  Extra points if you can find a "black budget/national security" related rationale — those programs are super-sacred.

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