GM, Army debut Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 fuel-cell vehicle

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. and the U.S. Army on Monday showed off the Chevrolet Colorado ZH2, an off-road designed fuel-cell electric vehicle the Army will test next year as it considers the viability of using hydrogen-powered vehicles in military use.

Recharging takes minutes and fuel-cell vehicles can run on renewable hydrogen from wind and biomass, with water vapor as the only emission.

The Colorado ZH2 was revealed during a Monday meeting of the Association of the United States Army. It is 61/2 feet tall and more than 7 feet wide, and was built on a stretched midsize pickup chassis. It uses 37-inch tires and a special suspension to tackle extreme terrain.

In November, GM and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) announced an agreement to develop the vehicle. Hydrogen fuel cells convert hydrogen into electricity and provide longer range and endurance than battery power. Recharging takes minutes and fuel-cell vehicles can run on renewable hydrogen from wind and biomass, with water vapor as the only emission.

Colorado ZH2

“Fuel cells have the potential to expand the capabilities of Army vehicles significantly through quiet operation, exportable power and solid torque performance, all advances that drove us to investigate this technology further,” Paul Rogers, director of TARDEC, said in a statement.

Specifically, the Army intends to test the Colorado ZH2 fuel cells for quiet, silent watch operation; reduced acoustic and thermal signatures; high torque; low fuel consumption and water by-product for use in the field.

The Colorado ZH2 also is equipped with an exportable power take-off unit, allowing fuel cells to power things away from the vehicle.

Most of the Colorado ZH2 was assembled at GM’s Advanced Vehicle Integration facility in Warren and calibration testing will continue until early 2017 at GM’s Milford Proving Ground.

Colorado ZH2

GM plans to use feedback from a nontraditional fuel-cell application in development of the technology. It is also working with the U.S. Navy, which in June showed a GM fuel cell-powered Unmanned Undersea Vehicle, or underwater drone, that is in pool testing.

“The Colorado ZH2 is a terrific example of GM’s engineering and design skill in creating an off-road vehicle relevant to a range of potential users,” Charlie Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel Cell Activities, said in a statement. “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.”

GM, which has been working on fuel cells for decades and since the late 1990s has invested nearly $3 billion into fuel-cell technology, also has a long-term agreement with Honda Motor Co. Ltd. to co-develop a fuel-cell system and hydrogen storage technologies that could be available around 2020.

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