Chevy’s Making a Hydrogen-Powered Pickup for the US Army

Chevy’s Making a Hydrogen-Powered Pickup for the US Army
October 04 12:04 2016 Print This Article

(WIRED) – WHEN IT COMES to pickups, the standard attitude is, go big or go home. Huge knobbly tires, bullbars, spotlights, winches—even if they’re unnecessary. Look at Ford’s F-150 Raptor (not just leaner, meaner!), Toyota’s Tacoma TRD Pro (not afraid to show off its wild side!), or Nissan’s Titan XD Warrior concept (37-inch tires!).

Now, General Motors is back at the front. Working with the US Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC), it has built what may be the baddest pickup yet. The Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 stands 6.5 feet tall and 7 feet wide, weighs three tons, and features flared wheel arches, a jacked-up ride, narrow slotted headlights, and a camouflage paint job.

What really marks this truck as different, though, is the drivetrain. Instead of the diesel and gasoline engines that power the street-legal Colorado, the ZH2 pulls its power from a hydrogen fuel cell, making it an electric, zero-emissions ride.

GM and TARDEC unveiled the truck today at the fall meeting of the Association of the United States Army, and the Army will lease the truck for a year of field testing, starting in 2017.

“I’ve got to figure out how to get on the bases, so I can have some of the fun,” says Charlie Freese, who leads GM’s fuel cell program.

An electric truck offers plenty of upside on the battlefield. It runs more quietly than gas and diesel-powered vehicles, helpful for stealthy operations. It also runs cooler, which means it won’t show up on thermal cameras as clearly.

And, as Tesla has amply demonstrated, electric motors can deliver massive torque and acceleration. What’s fun in a sedan can be crucial in a military truck off-roading on enemy terrain.

The ZH2 runs a 92-kW fuel cell, which combines hydrogen with oxygen to generate electricity, leaving nothing but water as a byproduct. Along with a battery that recaptures kinetic energy when braking, the drivetrain produces 174 horsepower, which feeds one motor, linked to all four wheels. GM’s already thinking about giving each axle its own motor.

The key advantage of a hydrogen fuel cell over a battery-powered electric is the speed of refueling—you pump the tank full in a few minutes, instead of plugging it in and waiting a few hours. As a bonus, the ZH2’s fuel cell produces about two gallons of water an hour, potentially useful in hostile deserts. You could even use the truck as a clean, quiet, generator to power auxiliary equipment.

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