Chevrolet Unveils Hydrogen-Powered Colorado ZH2 Fuel Cell Off-Road Vehicle

Oct. 03, 2016 By Josh Burns
The Army will test this hydrogen-powered Chevy ZH2 truck next year to guage its viability in the field.

GM today unveiled its new Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 hydrogen-powered vehicle today at the Association of the United States Army, which it hails as “the most extreme off-road-capable fuel-cell-powered electric vehicle ever from General Motors.”

The truck, which Chevy says stands taller than 6 1/2 feet and is 7 feet wide, is built on a stretched Colorado mid-size truck chassis and features upgraded off-road suspension along with the space to squeeze 37-inch BFGoodrich KM2 mud-terrain tires.

The ZH2 stuffed 37s beneath it.

The vehicle was built for the U.S. Army, who will test the ZH2 in extreme conditions in 2017 to gauge the viability of hydrogen-powered vehicle use for military missions. The Colorado ZH2 was constructed with an Exportable Power Take-Off unit (EPTO) that allows the fuel cell to power activity away from the vehicle, such as remote locations where electric power may otherwise be unavailable. GM and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) collaborated to develop the Colorado ZH2 from contract to concept in less than a year.

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Chevy says its fuel says has over 3.1-million miles of testing on it.

“The speed with which innovative ideas can be demonstrated and assessed is why relationships with industry are so important to the Army,” said Paul Rogers, director of TARDEC. “Fuel cells have the potential to expand the capabilities of Army vehicles significantly through quiet operation, exportable power and solid torque performance, all advances that drove us to investigate this technology further.”

Chevy says the Army will evaluate the ZH2 fuel cell specifically for these qualities: Near-silent operation enabling silent watch capability; reduced acoustic and thermal signatures; high wheel torque at all speeds via electric drive; low fuel consumption across operating range; water by-product for field uses.

GM and TARDEC have fuel cell development laboratories about 20 miles apart in southeast Michigan. Most of the Colorado ZH2 was assembled in GM’s Advanced Vehicle Integration facility in Warren. Calibration testing at GM’s Milford Proving Ground will continue into early 2017, when the vehicle will be turned over to the Army for a year of field testing.

“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,” said 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.”

Chevy says its hydrogen-powered Colorado ZH2 contract is GM’s second vehicle development with a U.S military branch announced this year. In June, the U.S. Navy unveiled a GM fuel cell-powered Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) that is currently in pool testing before eventual deployment. The UUV leverages GM fuel cell technology common with the Colorado ZH2, demonstrating the flexibility to power a range of mobile and stationary devices.

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