General Motors is enlisting with the U.S. Army to make an off-roading, hydrogen fuel cell Chevrolet Colorado. The automaker is collaborating with the Tank Automotive Research, Development & Engineering Center (TARDEC) to create the necessary modifications to its midsize pickup. GM says the design sketch above foreshadows what the modified truck would look like.
“The potential capabilities of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can bring to the Warfighter are extraordinary, and our engineers and scientists are excited about the opportunity to exercise the limits of this demonstrator,” says TARDEC Director Paul Rogers.
Before joining the forces, the fuel cell truck will be put through an intensive 12 months of evaluations in both civilian and military testing facilities.
One of the motivations behind the project is that fuel cell vehicles operate at a nearly-silent level, which is an advantage over their respectively noisier gasoline counterparts, especially in combat and stealth operations.
“FCVs are very quiet vehicles, which scouts, special operators and other specialities place a premium. What’s more, fuel cells generate water as a by-product, something extremely valuable in austere environments,” Rogers adds.
The fuel-cells create a water byproduct can be used in dry climate situations. Other motivations include that fuel cell vehicles have very high low-end torque that can easily handle off-roading environments and can also provide power to other equipment out in the boonies.
The engine that is getting modified for the Colorado is a based off the one that GM used in its Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell 119-vehicle test fleet for Project Driveway back in 2007. The fuel cell Equinoxes were driven over 3 million miles by over 5,000 drivers and had a driving range of 168 miles.
Some of the challenges that come with fuel cell technology is that gaseous hydrogen is not energy dense, which means that it must be stored at high pressures and limits the driving range.
“Hydrogen fuel cell technology is important to GM’s advanced propulsion portfolio, and this enables us to put our technology to the test in a vehicle that will face punishing military duty cycles,” says Charlie Freese, executive director of GM’s Global Fuel Cell Engineering activities.
GM sees fuel cell technology as a potential for both military and commercial vehicles. Fuel cells address environmental concerns as they run off renewable hydrogen electricity from sources that include wind and biomass. The water-vapor only emissions from the tailpipe also help with the concerns over excessive carbon dioxide emissions.
Both TARDEC and GM are mum about detail specifications and the cost of the project.