GM and the US Army have developed a monster hydrogen fuel cell truck
At six-and-a-half feet tall and seven feet wide, the Chevy ZH2 is no regular truck.
Megan Geuss Ars Technica
Late last year, we got news that General Motors would work with the US Army to develop a hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered pickup truck. On Monday at an annual US Army association meeting, GM took the wraps off the beast, which the Army will test in Michigan over the next year.
The US Army’s tank research center collaborated with GM to build the Chevy Colorado ZH2, which has a reinforced body that’s six-and-a-half feet tall and seven feet wide. The truck will chew up terrain with 37-inch tires and a special suspension built for off-road handling.
The ZH2 has a single motor that’s powered by a hydrogen fuel cell and a battery. The advantage of that hydrogen fuel cell is that the only byproduct is water, and the electricity-powered engine is quieter than a traditional combustion engine. It also gives off less heat, which GM said would help the car in stealth situations, where the Army would want to reduce acoustic and thermal signatures. According to Wired, the ZH2’s hydrogen fuel cell produces two gallons of water an hour.
The truck also comes equipped with what GM called an “Exportable Power Take-Off unit (EPTO)”—basically a 25kW battery that’s charged by the fuel cell and can be removed from the truck to power anything else.
Needless to say, the ZH2 won’t be found at your local dealership any time soon. This is a military research vehicle through and through.
The Army is leasing the truck from GM for a year to test at proving grounds in Michigan, where it will be evaluated for potential use in combat situations. By the end of 2017, the Army hopes to have a full picture of how well the truck performs with respect to wheel torque, fuel consumption, and water-byproduct quality.
Of course, the issue with hydrogen fuel cells has been the same for decades—although fuel cell vehicles take minutes to refuel, unlike battery-powered cars, hydrogen can be difficult to store without a high-pressure container or very cold temperatures. Wired notes that this may not be such a problem for the Army, as it could repurpose JP-8 jet fuel supply tankers to supply H2, or it could make hydrogen from the jet fuel itself.
Clearly, hydrogen supply issues aren’t stopping GM from building research vehicles. The Colorado ZH2 follows GM’s announcement of an unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV), which it built in partnership with the US Navy. That UUV is currently being tested in a pool for “weeks if not months of endurance” in underwater environments.
On top of that, GM said it had already logged 3.1 million miles of driving between 119 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. (In fact, GM even built the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, called the Electrovan, back in the 1960s.)
Although this truck is for research purposes only, the Army’s testing could help hydrogen fuel cell vehicles make their way into the general market. Charlie Freese, GM’s executive director of global fuel cell activities, said in a statement that the Detroit automaker would benefit from the Army’s research. “Over the next year, we expect to learn from the Army the limits of what a fuel cell propulsion system can do when really put to the test.”
Listing image by GM