Space & Innovation

Monster Hydrogen-Powered Army Truck Is Whisper-Quiet

The three-ton Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 runs quietly and cooly for stealth operations.

<p>General Motors</p>

More evidence this week that we're living in a sci-fi pulp novel, circa 1959: General Motors has announced that they've built a new pickup truck for the U.S. Army that runs on hydrogen fuel cells.

Working with the Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC), the automaker has finished development on the three-ton Chevrolet Colorado ZH2, which stands six-and-a-half feet tall and is a full seven feet wide. Reinforced inside and out, the truck rides on a set of heavy-duty 37-inch tires and a specially modified suspension.

RELATED: How Hydrogen Fuel Is Made

Plenty of fuel-cell vehicles are in various stages of development around the world -- the Toyota Mirai is on display this week at the Paris Auto Show. But the lack of infrastructure for refueling has proven to be a major obstacle for fuel-cell passenger vehicles.

For military purposes and deployment, however, hydrogen-fueled vehicles make more sense. An interesting breakdown over at Wired details the potential advantages. The military could potentially extract hydrogen directly from the jet fuel it already uses. Or it could simply swap in tankers of hydrogen fuel for delivery within the existing supply and distribution system.

General Motors

As to the functional benefits of a hydrogen-fueled field vehicle, the ZH2 can provide near-silent operation for stealth purposes. And because the vehicle runs much cooler than a standard gas-powered truck, it doesn't show up as readily on thermal cameras. The truck's engine could also be used as a generator to power auxiliary equipment.

RELATED: Carbon from Power Plants Could Feed Fuel Cells

Then there's this little side effect: The hydrogen fuel cell actually creates clean water as a byproduct of operation. The system produces about two gallons of water an hour, potentially useful in desert operations. Relative to other electric vehicles, the ZH2 also refuels faster. It only takes a few minutes to power up, as opposed to plug-in electrical vehicles that can require hours to recharge.

GM and Tardec first began working together on fuel-cell technologies in 2013. The impending deployment of the ZH2 was announced at the fall meeting of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA). According to the GM project page, the ZH2 will be turned over to the Army in early 2017 for a year of field testing.