Hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars may not make much sense yet for Joe Public, but the U.S. Army sees numerous benefits in the technology.
It’s now about to embark on an extensive evaluation program, using a radical fuel cell pickup concept developed by General Motors Company [NYSE:GM] as the basis. The concept, called the Chevrolet Colorado ZH2, made its debut on Monday during the fall meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA).
Starting with a standard Colorado, the designers stretched the vehicle and reinforced it inside and out. They also added special off-road suspension and 37-inch tires, the result of which means the Colorado ZH2 now stands more than 6.5 feet tall and 7.0 ft wide.
Details on the powertrain are being kept secret though we know the fuel cell stack is positioned in the engine bay. Like most fuel cell cars, the Colorado ZH2 is driven using electric motors, with the electricity to power them generated by combining stored hydrogen (usually in liquid form) and oxygen from the air within the fuel cell stack. The Colorado ZH2 has been designed so that it can also power items in the field, offering 25 kilowatts continuous, or up to 50 kw at its peak—something GM refers to “power take-off.”
Other benefits the Army predicts include:
- Near-silent operation enabling silent watch capability
- Reduced acoustic and thermal signatures
- High wheel torque at all speeds via electric drive
- Low fuel consumption across operating range
- Water by-product for field uses
Final testing of the Colorado ZH2 concept will now take place at GM’s Milford Proving Ground and continue into early 2017, after which the vehicle will be turned over to the Army for a year of field testing.
Note, the Army isn’t the only military unit GM is helping to explore fuel cell solutions. The automaker is also working with the Navy to develop underwater drones powered by fuel cells.