2016 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Trail Boss shown. Picture: YouTube

Detroit, Michigan - General Motors is to build a hydrogen fuel cell version of its Colorado pickup for the US Army, giving soldiers a quiet and fuel-efficient reconnaissance vehicle for tough combat environments.

GM said the modified Colorado, a mid-sized pickup, would put its fuel cell technology to the test under “the extremes of daily military use.”

It said it had signed a multi-year contract at the end of September with the army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (Tardec) to develop and test the truck.

Tardec operates a fuel cell research facility close to GM's own fuel cell centre near Detroit, Michigan.

READ MORE

First drive: Toyota’s hydrogen car

Tardec director Paul Rogers said: “The potential capabilities hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can bring to the warfighter are extraordinary, and our engineers and scientists are excited about the opportunity to exercise the limits of this demonstrator.”

The advantages for soldiers in the field of fuel cell-powered electric engines are more than just the cheapness and unlimited supply of the fuel involved, hydrogen.

The engines run extremely quietly, and are also available to generate electricity for other field needs.

Moreover, the vehicles deliver high torque at low speeds, which is important in rugged terrain and in carrying or pulling heavy cargos.

“FCVs are very quiet vehicles, on which scouts, special operators and other specialties place a premium,” Rogers said.

“What's more, fuel cells generate water as a by-product, something extremely valuable in austere environments.”

‘THE ONLY EMISSION IS WATER’

GM spokesman Dean Flores said: It’s environmentally friendly and, beyond that, a fuel cell vehicle can be used essentially as a portable generator. It can power hospitals.”

The company has already been testing fuel cell engines in more than a hundred Chevrolet Equinox sport utility vehicles for eight years, some of them used by the military.

In July GM said it had, as a group, run more than 500km through every kind of weather, “proving that fuel cells can meet the demands of real-world drivers”.

It has also been working since 2013 with Honda to co-develop the next generation of fuel cell and hydrogen storage systems, with a target of 2020 for commercialising the technology, despite still-high vehicle costs and lack of infrastructure for distributing and replenishing the hydrogen fuel.

AFP Talk us to us via Twitter and Facebook.

IOL Motoring on Twitter

IOL Motoring on Facebook