Will the U.S. Military adopt Hydrogen fuel cell technology?

General Motors is partnering with the U.S. Military’s Army Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center to build and test a fuel cell-powered pickup for use in a military application. The pickup of choice, the Chevrolet Colorado, is currently under development and will be revealed sometime in October of 2016.

Hydrogen fuel cells as a power source have the potential to bring to the force incredibly valuable capabilities,” said TARDEC Director Paul Rogers. “We expect the vehicle to be quiet in operation and ready to provide electricity generation for needs away from the vehicle. With fuel cell technology advancing, it’s an ideal time to investigate its viability in extreme military-use conditions.”

The joint project is designed to leverage innovation and next-generation technologies in the commercial sector at the request of the Department of Defense. Not only does the project help the military, it gives GM an investor to help fund its R&D on hydrogen fuel cell technology, which could eventually be used in passenger vehicles.

As for the military, a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain offers a number of benefits. For one, a fuel cell is far more efficient than gasoline and diesel internal combustion engines. Fuel cells are also inherently quite in operation, allowing for covert operations without noisy exhaust rumbles.

“This project is another example of how fuel cell propulsion can play a role in non-traditional applications,” said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM’s Global Fuel Cell Activities. “We need to continue pursuing these opportunities along with our plans for production of a commercial fuel cell system in the 2020 time frame.”

We’ll bring you all the detailed information once GM debuts this Colorado Fuel Cell prototype in October.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it matters

The U.S. Military is always looking for the next big advancement in technology and it’s no surprise hydrogen fuel cell technology is on the table. Fuel cell power provides a quiet source of electricity, which can both be used to power the vehicle forward and power ancillary equipment on the battlefield.

Not only does this benefit the military, but GM as well. It can pursue the idea of hydrogen power in its consumer vehicles thanks to this project. Other automakers, Hyundai and Toyota in particular, have worked diligently in developing hydrogen fuel cell technology to the point both automakers offer hydrogen-powered cars in the marketplace.

Press Release

General Motors and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) will reveal a Chevrolet Colorado-based fuel cell electric vehicle in October at the fall meeting of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) in Washington, D.C.

The vehicle is being developed under an agreement between TARDEC and GM signed in 2015. The collaboration enables TARDEC to access consumer-driven automotive technology for use in military applications while providing GM with feedback on non-standard fuel cell technology applications.

Consistent with the Department of Defense’s desire to leverage commercial innovation in its next-generation technologies, the Army will use the vehicle to demonstrate the capabilities fuel cell electric propulsion and power generation systems can bring to the military, including quieter mobility, exportable power generation, low-end torque and water generation. The Army intends to conduct user assessments and demonstrations in 2017.

”Hydrogen fuel cells as a power source have the potential to bring to the force incredibly valuable capabilities,” said TARDEC Director Paul Rogers. “We expect the vehicle to be quiet in operation and ready to provide electricity generation for needs away from the vehicle. With fuel cell technology advancing, it’s an ideal time to investigate its viability in extreme military-use conditions.

“Fuel cell propulsion has low-end torque capability that is useful in an off-road environment,” Rogers said. “It also offers additional characteristics attractive to both commercial and military off-road use.”

Neither GM nor TARDEC released vehicle specifics, but Rogers said the Army is focusing on the technology and its capabilities, regardless of the platform.

“This project is another example of how fuel cell propulsion can play a role in non-traditional applications,” said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM’s Global Fuel Cell Activities. “We need to continue pursuing these opportunities along with our plans for production of a commercial fuel cell system in the 2020 time frame.”

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