Chevrolet has taken the wraps off its new Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 at the fall meeting of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA). Tagged as the most extreme fuel-cell-powered electric vehicle with off-road capabilities and underpinned by a stretched midsized pickup chassis, this Colorado ZH2 is simply physically imposing with a height of over six-and-a-half feet and a width of over seven feet wide.
The new Colorado ZH2 rides on a specially modified suspension and on 37-inch tires -- allowing the EV to tackle any kind of terrain. It is fitted with an Exportable Power Take-Off unit (EPTO), a system that enables the fuel cell to power activity away from the EV, including locations where electric power could be unavailable.
Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 is the result of a collaboration between General Motors and the US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), taking them only less than a year to develop the EV from contract to concept. In this project, GM is leveraging an array of advanced technologies for multiple applications, including military. GM and TARDEC operate fuel cell development laboratories in southeast Michigan that are just 20 miles apart.
Most of the fuel-cell powered EV had been assembled in the carmaker’s Advanced Vehicle Integration facility in Warren. TARDEC director Paul Rogers remarked that the Army regards its relationships with the auto industry as very important, considering the speed with which innovative concepts could be demonstrated and assessed.
He noted that the potential of fuel cells in significantly expanding the capabilities of Army vehicles -- as well as their quiet operation, exportable power and solid torque performance -- has prompted TARDEC to further investigate this technology. The ZH2’s calibration testing at the Milford Proving Ground will continue into early 2017. GM will then turn over the ZH2 to the US Army for a year of field testing.
The US Army will have the Colorado ZH2 undergo testing in extreme field conditions to see whether hydrogen-powered vehicles are viable on military missions. The US Army will consider several aspects during the test, including the ZH2’s near-silent operation for silent watch capability as well as its reduced acoustic and thermal signatures.
They will also evaluate the ZH2’s high wheel torque at all speeds via electric drive and its low fuel consumption rate across operating range. In addition, the US Army will test the ZH2 on its water by-product for field uses. Charlie Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel Cell Activities, called the Colorado ZH2 as a terrific example of the carmaker’s engineering and design skill in crafting an off-road vehicle that has been adapted to suit its potential users.
Freese said that in 2017, GM expects to learn from the US Army what a fuel cell propulsion system could actually achieve when put to the test. The Colorado ZH2 contract marks the second vehicle development with a US military branch disclosed this year.
In June 2016, the US Navy revealed a GM fuel cell-powered Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) that is now undergoing pool testing before it is deployed. This new UUV demonstrates how GM’s fuel cell technology is flexible enough to power a range of mobile and stationary devices. So far, GM has accumulated around 3.1 million miles of hydrogen fuel cell testing through its Project Driveway, a fleet that includes 119 fuel-cell vehicles piloted by over 5,000 people in a multi-year fuel cell experience program.
General Motors Co. is one of the leaders in the global auto industry, building – through its own capacities and its partners -- vehicles in around 30 countries. The carmaker, its subsidiaries and joint venture entities, sell these vehicles under several brands like Buick, Baojun, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Holden, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. Its subsidiaries include OnStar, considered as one of the leaders in vehicle safety, security and information services.
TARDEC is a major research and development hub as well as an engineering center for the Army Materiel Command’s Research, Development and Engineering Command, with a base at U.S. Army Detroit Arsenal in Warren, Michigan.
An enterprise partner in the TACOM Life Cycle Management Command, TARDEC is regarded as the national laboratory for advanced military automotive technology, serving as the Ground Systems Integrator for all manned and unmanned ground vehicle systems of the Defense Department. Its work includes the development and integration of the right technology solutions to enhance and improve the current force effectiveness as well as the provision of superior capabilities for future force integration.