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Army-ready Chevrolet Colorado uncovered

Green menace: The extreme Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 concept was built in collaboration with the US Army and is ready for field duty.

Fuel-cell-powered Chevrolet Colorado concept to go into battle in the US

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Chevrolet logo4 Oct 2016

THE covers have finally come off the wild hydrogen fuel-cell-powered Chevrolet Colorado off-road concept that has been developed with United States Army applications in mind.

Described as “the most extreme off-road-capable fuel-cell-powered electric vehicle ever from General Motors”, the Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 – which was teased in August – will be tested by the US Army next year in “extreme field conditions” to determine the viability of hydrogen-powered vehicles in military missions.

GM and the US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) collaborated on the development of the hardcore off-roader “from concept to contract” in less than a year, according to Chevrolet.

Built on a stretched version of the US-market Colorado’s mid-size pick-up chassis, the Army weapon reaches 1981mm, or six foot and six inches tall, and is more than 2134mm or seven feet wide, which is about 550mm wider than a Holden Spark.

The ZH2 has been reinforced inside and out and rides on giant 37-inch tyres and a specially modified suspension setup that helps it navigate difficult terrain.

An Exportable Power Take-Off unit ensure that the fuel-cell unit can power other things away from the unit itself in remote locations where there may be no available power.

The US Army will evaluate the ZH2 fuel-cell vehicle for “near-silent operation enabling silent watch capability” to quietly spy on the enemy, “reduced acoustic and thermal signatures”, and “high wheel torque at all speeds via electric drive”.

It will also be assessed for its fuel consumption across an operating range as well as the potential water by-product for field uses.

While the majority of the Colorado ZH2 was built in GM’s Advanced Vehicle Integration facility in Warren, Michigan, calibration testing at GM’s Milford Proving Ground will continue into early 2017 before it is handed over to the Army for a further year of testing in the field.

TARDEC director Paul Rogers said highlighted the capabilities of fuel-cell technology and its relevance to the US Army.

“The speed with which innovative ideas can be demonstrated and assessed is why relationships with industry are so important to the Army,” he said. “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.” GM Global Fuel Cell Activities executive director Charlie Freese said the Colorado ZH2 will provide valuable insight into the reliability and limits of fuel-cell tech when pushed to the limit.

“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,” he said. “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 is not GM’s first military collaboration. The American car-making giant unveiled a fuel-cell-powered Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) in June that is currently undergoing pool testing by the US Navy ahead of eventual deployment.

Some of the fuel-cell technology in the Colorado ZH2 is shared with the Undersea Vehicle.

GM says it has racked up five million kilometres of hydrogen fuel-cell testing through its Project Driveway fleet of 119 vehicles that are driven by more than 5000 people over several years.

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