Riding silently in the US Army’s Chevy Colorado ZH2 hydrogen fuel-cell electric truck

When you’re slinking behind enemy lines, the last thing you want is to be detected.

For the U.S. Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), the next step in military vehicle technology marks its location with only a hint of water dripping out of its tailpipe. The only sound you’ll hear as it approaches is the crunch of the ground beneath its big mud tires. And its heat profile is almost invisible to infrared cameras.

The Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 hydrogen fuel-cell electric truck is quite a departure from the rumbling diesel Humvees long emblematic of the Army.

Behind the Chevrolet Colorado ZH2’s showstand looks are a host of goodies that make it a highly capable off-roader for the armed forces. The one-off  ZH2 is currently undergoing a year of Army evaluation at several bases spread across the U.S. We caught up with it at Fort Carson, near Colorado Springs, Colorado, where the foothills of the Rocky Mountains approximate the terrain in some of the world’s most dangerous places.

Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle

Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle

Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle

Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle

Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle

Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle

Testbed of technology

GM formally handed the Colorado ZH2 to TARDEC for a year-long evaluation beginning late last year. It may look like a concept, but its chunky looks hide a test-bed of technologies. Chief among them is the 170-horsepower electric motor that receives its juice from a hydrogen fuel cell. This test truck actually uses a Gen 0 (in GM-speak) fuel cell powertrain borrowed from GM’s now-discontinued line of fuel cell Chevy Equinox crossovers. It’s not the latest and greatest fuel cell setup, but it does serve as a good starting point for military testing in a variety of durability and feasibility situations that simulate everything from reconnaissance to combat.

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The hydrogen fuel cell also provides juice to a separate electric generator housed behind a top-hinged trunk where the standard Colorado’s bed would be. An electric generator could eventually replace the loud, inefficient diesel generators the armed forces currently lug behind their Humvees to power their communications devices.

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