Looks butch right? But before you cancel your booking for that Silverado, let’s tell you that this imposing pick-up truck based on the mid-size Chevy Colorado isn’t for sale. This mean machine is an experimental vehicle built jointly by General Motors and TARDEC (the US Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center) aimed at finding out the viability of hydrogen fuel cells on the battlefield.
Hence this beefed up Colorado, Dubbed ZH2, ditches the usual internal combustion engine in favor of a removable fuel cell. Built on a stretched version of the GM mid-size pickup chassis, the ZH2 is more than six and a half feet tall and more than seven feet wide, and rides on 37in tyres and a specially modified suspension that will help it manoeuvre any kind of terrain that a military mission might throw at it.
The army will start testing the vehicle next year and evaluate its attributes including near-silent operation, reduced acoustic and thermal signatures, high wheel torque at all speeds via electric drive, low fuel consumption across operating range, as well as its ability to retain vapour emissions and produce water by-product which in turn can be used in the field.
Of particular interest to the military will be the Colorado ZH2’s ability to function as an Exportable Power Take-Off unit (EPTO) that lets the fuel cell to power activity away from the vehicle, such as remote battlefield locations where electric power may otherwise be unavailable. “The Colorado ZH2 is a terrific example of GM’s engineering and design skill in creating an off-road vehicle relevant to a range of potential users,” says Charlie Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel Cell Activities. “Over the next year, we expect to learn from the Army the limits of what a fuel cell propulsion system can do when really put to the test.”
The Colorado ZH2 is GM’s second joint development project with a US military division this year. In June, the US Navy had announced an Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) powered by GM’s fuel cell technology.