Volvo's New Military Transport Does the Unthinkable—It Can Drive Sideways

Volvo's new light armored personnel carrier drives like no other, moving sideways like a crab.
John Loeffler

Arquus, the military vehicle division of Swedish automaker Volvo, unveiled its latest concept vehicle designed for the French Army: a light armor vehicle whose front and back powered-wheels can turn independent of each other, allowing it to move sideways like a crab.

Arquus Scarabee Can Sidestep Obstacles like a Crab

Normally, vehicles like cars and trucks are restricted in their degrees of freedom. Traditionally, these vehicles have only one degree of freedom: forward and backward. Even turning the car 90 degrees is an explicitly forward movement. Volvo military vehicle division, France-based Arquus, wanted to challenge that paradigm with its light armor vehicle concept, the Scarabee, revealed at the Paris Air Show this week.


The Scarabee has all-wheel drive like a normal military transport of its kind, but unlike the rest, its back wheels can be turned independently of its front wheels, allowing it to perform maneuvers physically impossible for other vehicles like it. It can pull off incredibly tight turns in a confined space like alleyways or clogged roads, 'sidestep' obstacles in its path without losing forward momentum, or move away from incoming enemy fire without needing to expose its flanks or rear.

"That way you can approach the enemy without either turning your back to him or being full front on, but you could also drive crab-like behind a ridge, for example, and yet still have your roof-top gun with its limited turn radius pointing at the enemy,” a company spokesperson told Popular Science.

Scarabee Specs

Arquus Scarabee
Source: Theatrum Belli / Twitter

At six feet tall and fifteen feet wide, the Scarabee is very reminescent previous generations of miltary light armor vehicles, including the Humvee, but the Scarabee incorporates several new technologies over these other vehicles.  It seats four, with the driver in the center, with a seat on either side but somewhat behind the driver, giving an unobstructed field of view. A fourth seat is behind the forward three, positioned in teh middle of the vehicle cabin.

Arquus Scarabee
Source: Theatrum Belli / Twitter

According to Arquus, the body is made from composite materials and is assembled in ways that make it more resistant to gunfire, landmines, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). It can also survive a short drop, making it possible to parachute a scarabee to a normally inaccessible area.

The Scarabee is lighter than other similar vehicles, meaning that it is also faster, something that Arquus says enhances its survivability in a dangerous environment. "We really worked on the speed because that is also a form of protection,” said Emmanuel Lavacher, CEO of Arquus. “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 Scarabee tops out at 75 mph, generating 60 hp for every ton of weight, nearly three times that of the Humvee. To generate this kind of power, the Scarabee relies on a diesel engine with about 300 hp and an electric motor that kicks in an additional 103 hp, both in the rear of the vehicle and to reach top speed, both have to be running at the same time.

The diesel engine has a range of about 620 miles, while the electric motor has less than 10. What the electric motor does have, however, are two battery packs placed on the underside of the vehicle, providing an extra layer of armor to shield the four occupants of the Scarabee from landmines and IEDs.

It has sliding doors on either side, making getting in and out of the vehicle in confined spaces easier and since it doesn't have a door handle on the outside, they cannot be opened without a remote if you are trying to get in, providing another security layer for the occupants.

On top of the Scarabee, it can be fitted with everything from a radar unit to 30mm anti-tank guns to a missile launcher capable of hitting targets at medium range. It can be remotely controlled even outside of a line-of-sight and Arquus hopes to develop drone technology that service as a set or aerial recon to relay conditions on the roads ahead.

Arquus has also developed a trailer for the Scarabee that can hual up to 4 tons of material. It also uses an electric motor so it can operate independently of the Scarabee, and can also be remotely controlled.


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