Chevy Colorado-Based Fuel Cell Vehicle To Be Revealed Shortly By GM And US Army TARDEC

SEP 2 2016 BY MARK KANE 41

General Motors has announced the reveal of a Chevrolet Colorado-based fuel cell electric vehicle for this October, specifically at the fall meeting of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) in Washington, D.C.

This special prototype was developed together with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC).

Advantages of Chevrolet Colorado FCV to be quiet operation, low-end-torque and power-export capability in the field.  The disadvantages might be, well…hydrogen in the field.

“The vehicle is being developed under an agreement between TARDEC and GM signed in 2015. The collaboration enables TARDEC to access consumer-driven automotive technology for use in military applications while providing GM with feedback on non-standard fuel cell technology applications.

Consistent with the Department of Defense’s desire to leverage commercial innovation in its next-generation technologies, the Army will use the vehicle to demonstrate the capabilities fuel cell electric propulsion and power generation systems can bring to the military, including quieter mobility, exportable power generation, low-end torque and water generation. The Army intends to conduct user assessments and demonstrations in 2017.”

“Neither GM nor TARDEC released vehicle specifics, but Rogers said the Army is focusing on the technology and its capabilities, regardless of the platform.”

TARDEC Director Paul Rogers said:

”Hydrogen fuel cells as a power source have the potential to bring to the force incredibly valuable capabilities. 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.”

Charlie Freese, executive director of GM’s Global Fuel Cell Activities said:

“This project is another example of how fuel cell propulsion can 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.”

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41 Comments on "Chevy Colorado-Based Fuel Cell Vehicle To Be Revealed Shortly By GM And US Army TARDEC"

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i don’t see hydrogen in the field being a disadvantage. the logistics base to support a military operation already needs to have gasoline refueling infrastructure. this just means that a military logistics base would also have to build a hydrogen refilling infrastructure. the military is used to wasting huge sums of money already, so this is probably one of the best testbeds for operational deployment of fcev technology.

That sounds like a herculean effort.

Adding H2 distribution in a warzone sounds much harder than moving liquid fuel.

they will probably start by doing extensive testing at training facilities first before they attempt field deployment. in the field, you would have to protect fuel truck the same way that you would hydrogen trucks. the thing is, the higher energy density of gasoline would make me wonder why the military would even undertake such a project unless this is just a research project for the time being.

Bases will generate their own hydrogen using small modular reactors. It’s actually simplifying the logistics, removing convoys of fuel vehicles through hostile territory.

Army has planned this for years.

You don’t “simplify logistics” by using a non-standard type of fuel that is difficult to store, difficult to dispense in the field, continually leaks from storage, and contains far less chemical energy by volume (even when compressed) than gasoline, diesel, or the aviation fuel they’re using for most combat vehicles.

And that’s not even getting into the outrageous cost, which even the military can’t completely ignore.

Actually, there is little to no gasoline in forward military bases like what you would think of in war zones. The US military converted to JP-8 (and variants) for vehicles, humvee’s, tanks, aircrafts, heaters, stoves, etc. This is actually a cross-NATO standard, that we share with our allies in order to have a “Single Fuel” wartime strategy, where even if JP-8 variants are misfueled, they will not cause damage to engines or equipment. This would be an exception to the “Single Fuel” standard, so these vehicles would likely only be used in non-combat, non-forward deployment locations. Since this is just a “demonstration”, I would guess they will be used exclusively on a small number of US Military bases, where having a specialty fuel for only one subset of one vehicle would be manageable. It would be difficult to battle harden a hydrogen refueling station, and the storage density of h2 is tiny vs. JP-8. I doubt the military has a plan to use this fuel in combat zones anytime soon. However, it certainly fits the Military’s efforts to reduce fossil fuels in the US, in order to reduce competition for highly portable liquid fuels that would be prioritized to being… Read more »

Interesting point on the JP8 single fule standard I didn’t know that.

I’m thinking that the US Army may be looking at the H2 concept so they can do less shipping of petroleum to forward operations….perhaps using solar cells and electrolysis or by some other method.

this has got to be a long term research project. gasoline has a huge energy density advantage over hydrogen fuel cell. fcev isn’t anywhere near practical, which makes it ok for research purposes.

the thing is that this seems like an application in which bev with battery swap might actually make more sense.

@no comment
Yes it seems a whole lot easier and more efficient to dump the electricity straight into the batteries. Who knows the Armies rational. Perhaps they have some heavy lifting to do that they think that H2 would be better.

Sure dumping into batteries like in Musk ad sounds very easy 😉 Don’t shoot me guys, my support team needs one more hour to recharge batteries before they can move to combat!!!! Do you know where is supercharger with cold bar in these mountains??? What, you don’t even have power lines here????

Agreed that BEVs are not what you’d want to depend on in a war zone, but how are “fool cell” vehicles any better?

“Hey guys, wait up, my FCEV ran out of fuel again.”

“You’re on your own. We’re tired of waiting while you stop every hour or two and wait for one of those special tanker trucks with the high-pressure pumps that you need to refuel your fool cell hummvee. Our aviation fuel powered vehicles can run a lot further, and when they do run out of fuel, we can just refill them from jerry cans we carry in the back, and keep going.”

At least with a BEV you’d have some chance of finding a local source for electricity. Good luck finding a high-pressure hydrogen gas dispensing station anywhere in a combat zone!

i was referring to fast battery swap, not “fast” in-field recharging. in a battery swap, you are swapping out a depleted battery and replacing it with a battery that is fully charged. you could then recharge the depleted battery, which could then be available for a future swap.

as pointed out, in-field recharging would be ridiculous…

Bullets and rockets flying all around with hydrogen tanks… What can go wrong?

Exactly what I was thinking.

You take out a gasoline/diesel tank, you get a vigorous fire.

You take out a hydrogen tank, you have an explosion and then a vigorous fire.

I’ll take gasoline/diesel!

You don’t have any explosion when you shoot hydrogen tank, assuming that is just moronic. Pressure tank has hard thick walls, it is not some party balloon that implodes on loss of pressure. Hydrogen doesn’t explode without mixing it with oxygen first. When you hear about space rocket explosions, that is because they have oxygen tanks, we don’t need oxygen tanks for Earth vehicles. When you make hole in hydrogen tank, hydrogen just goes up in atmosphere at high speed as it is very light, and that is all. It was tested many times before.

Did you see the SpaceX testing the other day?

BZZZZZZ! Wrong, but thanks for playing.

SpaceX rockets use liquid methane or kerosene, not liquid hydrogen. And even booster rockets that do use liquid hydrogen also use liquid oxygen. It’s the combo of liquid hydrogen plus liquid oxygen that makes many large rockets so explosive… not just hydrogen alone.

Last time I looked, very few “fool cell” cars carry liquid oxygen. 😀 Fuel cells get their oxygen from the air. Furthermore, cars such as the Mirai don’t use cryogenically cooled liquid hydrogen, as rocketships do; they merely use highly compressed hydrogen gas.

For once, “fool cell” fanboy zzzzzzzzz is at least partly correct. If you expect a spectacular explosion from shooting a tank full of pressurized hydrogen, you’re going to be quite disappointed. In general, even if the hydrogen does catch fire — which it can’t until it’s well mixed with oxygen — the danger is still far less than a gasoline fire, because hydrogen rises rather rapidly into the air, and in the open it dissipates equally rapidly.

three words:

Phosphorus Tracer Rounds.

While it is true that a normal bullet won’t automatically ignite either a gas tank or a hydrogen tank, in a war zone a simple 50 cal. phosphorus tracer round (very, very common) would provide both the penetration and ignition.

That’s before even talking about heavy artillery with explosive ordinance.

So while zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz is correct outside of a war zone, and anywhere that a isn’t a closed environment (like an underground parking garage, or home garage), the ignition of hydrogen in a filling station in a war zone is a different story.

And yes, fuel trucks are already a big target in wars.

In WW I, British biplanes equipped with phosphorous tracer rounds tried to set fire to German zepplins which were bombarding London.

They failed several times. They finally succeeded only by a sustained attack, firing tracers at the zepplin continuously for several minutes. (Presumably holes shot in the hydrogen gas bags inside the zepplin eventually let in enough air — and oxygen — that a tracer was finally able to start a fire.)

As I said: Hydrogen cannot explode (or even ignite) until it is well mixed with oxygen. As I recall, a “Mr. Science” video claimed there needed to be at least 25% air by volume mixed with the H2 before it can be ignited.

Fire a tracer round into or thru a tank full of pressurized H2, you get a leaking tank full of hydrogen… and no oxygen to sustain a fire, let alone an explosion. So far as I can see, the tracer bullets themselves don’t contain an oxidizer. But even if they did, the amount would be so small as to be irrelevant. Any fire they started would immediately go out due to the lack of oxygen necessary to continue the combustion.

Mythbusters also tried shooting gasoline tanks and propane tanks with several different types of rounds trying to get them to explode like in the movies. Nothing worked. They never exploded due to an incorrect mixture of the fuel & air.

Hum, any tank at 700 bars containing whatever gas becomes a serious hazard if its envelope is breached by automatic gun shots. 700 bars is not you standard compressed air pump pressure. That’s 7000 tons per square meter or 7000 m deep under water! Hydrogen is only a bonus spicing here.

True, I wouldn’t want to be within a few yards of a tank at 10,000 PSI that was being shot full of holes, regardless of what kind of gas was in the tank. Even just plain air could cause an explosive release of pressure if the tank blows.

But most people, reading the word “explosion”, think of the sort of huge orange fireball almost invariably seen in movies where any type of explosion is involved. And if you were very close to an exploding H2 pressure tank, it would certainly kill you from the pressure wave alone, even if there was no shrapnel that hit you.

How far away you’d have to be for safety depends on the volume of the tank. And that’s something else that those writing about the supposed dangers of H2 tanks in “fool cell” cars get wrong. I’ve seen one or more claims that an ordinary passenger car H2 tank explosion could go up like a blockbuster bomb! Sorry, there isn’t remotely enough volume of gas there to do that kind of damage. Not even within orders of magnitude enough volume or chemical energy in only 5-10 kg of H2.

Hydrogen can be made locally on base and that is great advantage in remote locations. E.g. cost to deliver fuel to Afghanistan was as much as $400/gallon for some places.

Using something that can be made in local base from solar PV and simple electrolyzer is no brainer.

“…if I only had a brain.”

If you only had a brain, you’d know that you can’t fill the hydrogen tank of a “fool cell” car without using special high pressure pumps, and you’d also need a special high pressure tank to store it in while it was being generated.

That sort of specialized, large, heavy, expensive, energy-hogging equipment is rather unlikely to be available in the field in a war zone.


It would require about 4 times as many solar panels to make hydrogen as it would take to power a PHEV hybrid the same number of miles.

If you want to produce power on the battlefield, solar + storage battery to charge PHEV’s beats solar + hydrogen generator + high pressure compressor + huge storage tanks.

Although neither of them are battle ready yet.

Yeah, if they want silent-covert vehicles, why not just go with a PHEV. Put if in EV mode when you want to be covert.

And yet still no Voltech Chevy Colorado, or Voltech Malibu, or Voltech Equinox.

The priorities seem skewed.

Voltorado, they need to make it.

The key difference here is the army I’m sure paid handomely (i.e. more than 10 times what they really should have) for this technology.

Projects such as this, rightly or wrongly, help GM field more EV research, since they can schlop it off as a given army project expense.

“Fuel cell propulsion has low-end torque capability that is useful in an off-road environment.”

You mean:
“ELECTRIC propulsion has low-end torque capability that is useful in an off-road environment.

The fool cell is only supplying the electricity for the motor(s).

Having retired from the Army I can assure you that H2 would not out work well in a combat zone.

As it is the military (despite the Republicans freaking out about it) has moved heavily into deploying solar./battery assets both stateside and in warzones since it really reduces the need for VERY expensive fuel resupplies.

If you ever been in military, not just some support warehouse, you should understand that silent vehicle operation may be invaluable in combat no matter what it costs. Batteries on military transport are just not practical for now due to slow recharge time, heavy weight and no recharging network in combat zone.

You don’t need long super-expensive supply routes for hydrogen, that is the whole point, it can be made locally from intermittent PV electricity.

You mean like this one fool cell troll

I know all about stealth since I was in the Infantry my entire career. Nothing is stealthier then foot soldiers in combat.

In any case for tactical vehicles, the relatively low energy density of H2 is a real problem as well as the very high inefficiency to make it any way and via solar power which would mean having many times the numbers of panels to make meaningful quantities.

Liquid fuels will remain the primary source of fuel for tactical vehicles for the next decade or so but their will probably be more and more PHEVs like the Spec Ops stealth motorcycle shown in the link.

Batteries will continue to improve in performance and weight fairly quickly and that will drive the electrification of more equipment and vehicles.

So go back to your warehouse at Ballard or Wall St or wherever you work because H2 physics are not going to work at forward locations in the military because of the same reasons it doesn’t work back here or anywhere else.

“You don’t need long super-expensive supply routes for hydrogen…”

100% wrong.

The infrastructure needed, including special, heavy, expensive high-pressure pumps and special high-pressure tanks and tanker trucks, are certainly super-expensive, not to mention much too difficult, too slow in dispensing fuel, and too awkward to depend on in a war zone.

There’s a reason that even small-scale hydrogen dispensing stations cost about $2 million to build. The U.S. Army cannot magically handwave away such costs.

“The disadvantages might be, well…hydrogen in the field.”

Indeed. The U.S. Army already has a hard time providing fuel to forwardly deployed troops. Putting hydrogen fueled vehicles into operation in a war zone would be insane.

But this is just a prototype, so no need to go into a rant about wasting billions of tax dollars. This probably will “only” be a waste of a few tens of thousands of dollars.

“…the capabilities fuel cell electric propulsion and power generation systems can bring to the military, including… water generation.”

This seems rather uninformed. The small amount of water generated by a “fool cell” car isn’t safe to drink, and I’m not sure it’s even good for washing. Looks like a PR flack was desperate for something positive to say about this example of wasteful government spending.

Good idea . . . get the military to waste their money on continued hydrogen boondoggle.

There are many, many ways to safely store hydrogen besides cryogenic or pressurized tanks … hydrides (metals that absorb H2 when cold and release it when warmed), hydrocarbons (reformed natural gas provides 99% of H2 worldwide, Nissan just demonstrated an Ethanol H2 reformer, even gasoline can be reformed to H2), rusting metals release H2 when the Oxygen in water combines with the metal to form a metal oxide (iron rust is the most familiar but a more vigorous example is Sodium which combines with oxygen in water so violently that the reaction must be inhibited to limit the rate of H2 release).

Eco said: “There are many, many ways to safely store hydrogen…” Sadly, none of them are practical, other than the liquid hydrocarbon fuels which are already in widespread use. “…besides cryogenic or pressurized tanks … hydrides (metals that absorb H2 when cold and release it when warmed)…” In theory, yes. But you will note that nobody has tried to deploy such a system in practice. By using a solid such as a hydride to store the H2, you lose the advantage of being able to pump a fluid (gas or liquid) fuel into a tank. Storing fuel in a hydride probably means you’d have to swap out the entire fuel tank, which is why nobody has tried to produce vehicles using such a system. “..hydrocarbons (reformed natural gas provides 99% of H2 worldwide… We’re already using very practical hydrocarbon fuels, including those called “gasoline” and “diesel”. You may note that we don’t generally describe complex hydrocarbons as “hydrogen fuel”. “…Nissan just demonstrated an Ethanol H2 reformer, even gasoline can be reformed to H2)…” Yes, you can use an onboard hydrogen reformer in the vehicle, requiring a lot more space and making it even more energy inefficient than using H2 for… Read more »

“Storing fuel in a hydride probably means you’d have to swap out the entire fuel tank, which is why nobody has tried to produce vehicles using such a system.”

What I’ve seen proposed is that you add hydrogen at modest pressure to a tank where the hydride is formed in place. Then you use the hydrogen at low pressure until it’s gone. As no one has found a good method to do that they usually heat the hydride to get the hydrogen out faster.

It still isn’t practical.

Thanks for the correction, Ambulator. Yes, you’re right, you can just pump H2 gas into the tank and let the hydride absorb it.

However, according to the technical article linked below, storing H2 in a hydride is an endothermic (heat-generating) process, which puts a practical limit on how rapidly the tank could be filled, even if you are filling it with highly compressed H2. One graph in the article shows fill times from 25-40 minutes.

This is even longer than the approx. 10 minute time it takes to fill a typical “fool cell” car’s pressurized H2 tank, and in fact now we’re in the ballpark of how long it takes to fast-charge a BEV’s battery pack. With battery charge times continuing to drop as the tech advances, and with hydride storage constrained by basic physical and chemical properties (i.e., impossible to improve), it won’t be many years until BEV tech is the clear winner in recharge time.

Eco — There is no sign that this vehicle will have any of those technologies.