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GM draws battle lines for fuel-cell Colorado

Mean machine: The United States Army has teamed with GM to develop a hydrogen fuel-cell Colorado that can not only travel stealthily across the battlefield but also double as a stationary powerplant.

Deathly quiet Chevrolet Colorado takes fuel-cell vehicle tech to the front line

Chevrolet logo31 Aug 2016

By RON HAMMERTON

GENERAL Motors and the United States military have jointly developed a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered electric Chevrolet Colorado stealth pick-up that can also double as generator for both power and water on the front lines.

To be unveiled at a meeting of the Association of the United States Army in Washington in October, the prototype is said to be much quieter than a regular internal-combustion engine vehicle while also boasting deep low-end torque from its electric motors to haul heavy loads in rough territory.

As a bonus, the powertrain can provide power for military installations in the field and even generate water via its hydrogen conversion process.

The Colorado is set to be put through army tests and demonstrations next year to assess its potential for military service alongside other military vehicles such as Humvees.

In developing the fuel-cell pick-up, GM engineers and designers collaborated with the US Army Tank Research, Development and Engineering (TARDEC) – the organisation responsible for overseeing development of military vehicles such as the Abrams M1 battle tank, a version of which GM builds at a plant in Warren, Michigan.

For GM – the company that developed the world’s first fuel-cell vehicle in 1966 – the Colorado project not only provides the potential for a large military vehicle contract but also an avenue to speed development of fuel-cell technology for its civilian vehicle range.

GM global fuel-cell activities executive director Charlie Freese said the project was another example of how fuel-cell propulsion could play a role in non-traditional applications.

“We need to continue pursuing these opportunities along with our plans for production of a commercial fuel-cell system in the 2020 time frame,” he said.

Although details of the Colorado remain secret, the US Army says hydrogen fuel-cells have the potential to bring to the force “incredibly valuable capabilities”.

TARDEC director Paul Rogers said: “We expect the vehicle to be quiet in operation and ready to provide electricity generation for needs away from the vehicle.

“With fuel-cell technology advancing, it’s an ideal time to investigate its viability in extreme military-use conditions.

“Fuel-cell propulsion has low-end torque capability that is useful in an off-road environment. It also offers additional characteristics attractive to both commercial and military off-road use.”

Moving stealthily in the battlefield has a great appeal to the army. This asset has been demonstrated by the turbine-powered M1 heavy tank which is regarded as quiet by comparison with diesel-powered rivals, earning it the nickname Whispering Death.

In the US, the civilian Chevrolet Colorado is similar to the Thai-built Holden Colorado that has just been heavily revised in a mid-life facelift.

The US version became the first pick-up in its class to offer diesel power.

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