US Army, Chevy to unveil hydrogen fuel-cell Colorado truck

It will be used primarily for demonstration purposes as the Army continues to mull the use of fuel cells to power certain types of vehicle.

Jae C. Hong/AP/File
The 2015 Chevrolet Colorado is introduced at the Chevrolet booth at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2013.

General Motors and the US Army will unveil a prototype hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle in October.

The vehicle, to be based on the Chevrolet Colorado mid-size pickup truck, was first announced in November of last year.

It will be used primarily for demonstration purposes as the Army continues to mull the use of fuel cells to power certain types of vehicle.

Details on the fuel-cell truck will not be released until its unveiling, which will take place at a meeting of the Association of the United States Army in Washington, DC.

Army officials have already identified several potential benefits of fuel-cell vehicles.

Those include quiet operation, the instantaneous torque of the electric motors used in fuel-cell powertrains, and the anticipated ability of fuel-cell vehicles to generate electricity and clean water in the field.

The project is part of an ongoing partnership between GM and the Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (known as TARDEC), which handles development work for ground vehicles.

The two entities began working together in 2013, with the stated goal of developing better materials and designs for various fuel-cell components.

It's a convenient arrangement, as both GM and TARDEC operate large research facilities in Warren, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.

A decade ago, GM deployed a fleet of 100 hydrogen-powered Chevrolet Equinox SUVs to test fuel-cell powertrains.

It now has a technology-sharing agreement with Honda to combine the two companies' development work on some parts of fuel-cell technology and vehicles.

But while Honda is poised to launch its 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell sedan in the US, GM hasn't committed to a production fuel-cell vehicle.

The Detroit carmaker's goal is to "launch a commercial fuel-cell system in the 2020 timeframe," GM fuel-cell boss Charlie Freese said in a press release that announced the fuel-cell Colorado truck project.

Meanwhile, former GM product czar Bob Lutz would be quite happy if his former employer never sold a fuel-cell vehicle to the general public.

During his tenure at GM, Lutz vehemently opposed the company's fuel-cell development program. To this day he still doesn't like fuel cells, reports WardsAuto.

Lutz recently told the industry trade journal that fuel cells are too costly, and that carmakers are only pursuing them to meet California's zero-emission vehicle mandate.

The mandate requires carmakers that register certain sales volumes to offer zero-emission vehicles—either fuel-cell or battery-electric—in the Golden State.

Because fuel-cell cars receive more ZEV credits, due to faster refueling, some carmakers calculate that they can comply with the rules by selling fewer of them than the number of battery-electric vehicles that would be required.

This story originally appeared on GreenCarReports.

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