General Motors and US Army collaborate on fuel cell prototype
The Chevrolet ZH2 will be trialled for its suitability in combat by the US Army, and will be the first fuel cell-powered military vehicle
The two have collaborated to create the off-road fuel cell vehicle (FCV) for evaluation by US soldiers in 2017.
The Army has identified a number of potential benefits to fuel cell power, including near-silent operation, high wheel-torque at all speeds, and water as a by-product for field use.
The ZH2 is based on a Chevrolet Colorado pick-up truck, with a roll bar, different seats and six-point harnesses added to the crew cab. The bespoke rear end is made of Kevlar-reinforced carbonfibre. The fuel cell’s components have been carried over from the Chevrolet Equinox FCV, of which a 120-strong test fleet has completed more than 3 million miles.
A range of around 120 miles is expected for the ZH2, with acceleration from 0-60mph in around 15sec.
A notable feature is the boot-mounted Exportable Power Take-Off unit (EPTO), which transforms the ZH2 into a mobile generator. “Fuel cells are about 10 times as efficient as combustion engines at idle speeds,” explains Dr Joe Mercurio, manager of new business development for GM’s fuel cell activities. “When you park the vehicle, you can run the fuel cell to make around 300V of DC power, which the EPTO will convert to 120V or 240V AC. It’ll produce up to 25kW, enough to power a temporary army camp.”
Getting a supply of hydrogen to the field of operation would be key to ensuring an FCV’s usefulness to the military. Mercurio says that studies have been done on reforming the widely used JP8 jet fuel into hydrogen.