Despite plenty of excitement over the technology, hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars have not made significant inroads in the automotive industry. Now a modified Chevrolet truck is to be tested by the U.S. Army.

However the U.S. Army is very interested in testing what fuel cell technology can do. Officials believe that fuel cell vehicles could bring major benefits, and will test a Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 fuel cell pickup developed by General Motors.

Chevrolet Colorado ZH2
Image source: General Motors Press Release

Redesigned Chevrolet Colorado powered by fuel cell technology

The Army will now run an evaluation program on the fuel cell pickup. The vehicle was debuted on Monday at the fall meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA).

Designers took a standard Colorado pickup before stretching and reinforcing it. Later they added custom off-road suspension as well as 37-inch tires. After its refit, the Chevrolet measures 6.5 feet tall and 7 feet wide.

Little is known about the Chevrolet’s powertrain, although we know that the fuel cell is housed in the engine bay. As is the case with the majority of fuel cell cars, the Colorado ZH2 uses electric motors. The electricity used to drive them is generated by mixing hydrogen and oxygen in the fuel cell stack.

One design feature of the Colorado ZH2 allows it to also power other devices in the field. The vehicle is capable of offering 25 kilowatts continuous power, or 50 kilowatts at its peak. General Motors refers to this as “power take-off.”

U.S. Army to test pickup for a year

Fuel cell technology appears to be something that intrigues the army. Officials apparently see a number of benefits that they could derive from the technology.

First is its near-silent operation, which would enable silent surveillance missions. Second is its lower acoustic and thermal signatures, which make it harder to detect.

Then there are mechanical benefits such as high wheel torque at all speeds. This is thanks to the electric drive system.

Fuel consumption is also incredibly low, and the motor even produces water as a by-product. This could be used in the field.

Testing of the Colorado ZH2 fuel cell pickup will be held at GM’s Milford Proving Ground. It will take place into early 2017, when the vehicle will undergo a year of field testing with the Army.

GM is also exploring fuel cell technology with other military units. The company also has an ongoing project with the Navy which is developing fuel cell-powered underwater drones.