Looking like something out of a Mad Max movie, a Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 Fuel Cell vehicle revealed at the fall meeting of the Association of United States Army (AUSA). It screams I’m ready for action and the U.S. Army is going to do exactly that.
Chevrolet took the Colorado to a whole new level with this unique truck. The styling immediately grabs your attention along with its size. This isn’t a typical Colorado.
The Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 stands more than 6.5′ tall and rides on a stretched midsize pickup chassis. These changes, along with 37″ tires and a specially modified suspension give it a much needed boost in off-road capability. Add in interior and exterior reinforcement and it can handle a beating as well.
In the coming year, the U.S. Army will push all of these components to the test as they try to determine if a hydrogen-powered vehicle is a viable option on military missions through extreme field condition exercises.
The testing is not only going to be on the vehicle, but also a unique Exportable Power Take-Off unit (EPTO). The EPTO is a portable fuel cell the Colorado carries in order to provide electric power in remote locations where power doesn’t exist.
Beyond remote power capability, the Army will also evaluate the ZH2 for:
- Near-silent operation enabling silent watch capability
- Reduced acoustic and thermal signatures
- High wheel torque at all speeds via electric drive
- Low fuel consumption across operating range
- Water by-product for field uses
The Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 is the result of a collaboration between GM and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC). Impressively, GM and TARDEC went from contract to concept in less than a year.
“The speed with which innovative ideas can be demonstrated and assessed is why relationships with industry are so important to the Army,” said Paul Rogers, director of TARDEC, said in a press release. “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.”
Helping speed this development is both GM’s research into alternative fuels and the fact GM and TARDEC have fuel cell development laboratories within 20 miles of each other in southeast Michigan.
The truck was mostly assembled by GM’s Advanced Vehicle Integration facility in Warren and will be tested at their Milford Proving Grounds into early 2017. Then, it will be delivered to the Army for a year of 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,” said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel Cell Activities, said in a press release. “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.”
This concept is the second such vehicle GM has developed with a U.S. military branch. Earlier this year, the U.S. Navy unveiled a GM fuel-cell powered Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) that is currently being pool tested.
GM isn’t new to fuel-cell vehicles and has been gaining insights through their Project Driveway which has accumulated 3.1 million miles of testing hydrogren fuel-cell vehicles through a 119-vehicle fleet driven by more than 5,000 people over a multi-year program.
Fuel cells are currently a hot topic in the automotive world with many manufactures looking at ways to make them a viable option for consumers. For example, Toyota has a fuel-cell vehicle for purchase right now and they are offering creative leasing programs to get consumer interest up.
For trucks, fuel cells are an interesting idea depending on how you use the vehicle. Under immense loads, fuel cells drain quickly (as does other fuels) and there are concerns about availability of fuel as well as if trucks will be limited in their towing/hauling as a byproduct of the fuel cell. It remains to be seen how these issues sort themselves out and the Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 is an exciting concept to test it out on. If it works for the Army, it could just be the ticket for consumers looking to cut down on their fuel bill.