General Motors, the company that supplied the U.S. Army with the venerable HMMWV or Humvee, is back at it again, this time with a fresh take on what a military utility truck can be powered by.
Called the Chevrolet Colorado ZH2, the truck is a derivative of the brand's global pick up, but uses a different kind of primary propulsion: a removable fuel cell. The vehicle is touted by GM as the “most extreme off-road capable fuel cell electric vehicle ever” from the company when it was revealed during an Army association meeting.
General Motors says they collaborated with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Engineering and Development Center (TARDEC) to produce the working prototype in under 12 months. The Colorado uses the platform of the truck that it is derived from, though it has been modified, stretched, and reinforced. The suspension has likewise been modified so that -together with the larger wheels and off-road tires- the ZH2 can traverse over challenging terrain.
“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,” said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel Cell Activities. “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.”
The main feature of the Colorado ZH2 is the fuel cell power pack, which is actually removable from the vehicle. Chevrolet calls it the Exportable Power Take-Off unit, and it allows soldiers in the field to have usable electricity in places where there isn't power readily available.
“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,” said Paul Rogers, director of the U.S. Army's TARDEC.
The U.S. Army will be field testing the Colorado ZH2 for its ability to operate quietly and with little thermal signatures, the high torque available from the electric drive system at any RPM, the fuel consumption, and perhaps even the use of the water byproduct in the field.