The Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center and General Motors unveiled an energy-efficient tactical vehicle here that could one day save lives on the battlefield.
The ZH2 hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle prototype was rolled out Monday, Oct. 3, during the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Symposium.
Kevin Centeck, team leader for Non-Primary Power Systems, Ground Vehicle Power and Mobility Directorate, TARDEC, said the vehicle comes with several advantages for the Army and Soldiers in the field.
First, the ZH2 operates on hydrogen fuel instead of traditional diesel. It uses much less fuel than traditional tactical vehicles. At idle, it is “extremely efficient,” Centeck said. This should reduce the logistics train.
Second, since the vehicle uses hydrogen with electric power, it has an extremely low acoustic signature, meaning it’s very quiet. “It’s silent mobility, silent watch,” Centeck said. “You don’t give away your position by turning on the engine.”
Third, the ZH2 has a radically reduced thermal signature because it doesn’t operate as hot as a diesel engine, which means the heat signature is harder to pick up by enemy thermal sensors, providing additional stealth for Soldiers.
A fourth, less direct, but nonetheless important advantage cited by Centeck, is that the ZH2 demonstrated that the Army could build such a vehicle rapidly, using mostly off-the-shelf parts. The ZH2 took just one year from concept to delivery. The vehicle itself is basically a Chevy Colorado platform.
Centeck called the development of the vehicle a “collaborative effort” between TARDEC and GM, with collaboration on evaluations and fuel-stack testing.
Delivery of the ZH2 from GM to the Army will take place April 1, Centeck said.
Following delivery, user evaluations will take place with Soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and, Fort Carson, Colorado. Those evaluations will take place over the course of a year.
The user evaluation process will be rigorous, he said. It will include subjective feedback from Soldiers as well as objective feedback in order to get a full data set.
Over the course of the next few years, the Army examine how it can best support hydrogen supply in the field, he said. Department of Energy tacticians and logisticians will help conceptualize the solution and provide a plan.