Automotive

Chevy supports stealthy, off-grid military ops with rugged ZH2 fuel cell truck

Chevy supports stealthy, off-g...
The Chevy Colorado ZH2 is a more extreme, off-road-ready pickup truck
The Chevy Colorado ZH2 is a more extreme, off-road-ready pickup truck
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The Chevy Colorado ZH2 is a more extreme, off-road-ready pickup truck
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The Chevy Colorado ZH2 is a more extreme, off-road-ready pickup truck
The Chevy Colorado ZH2 has 37-in tires and a modified suspension
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The Chevy Colorado ZH2 has 37-in tires and a modified suspension
The Chevy Colorado ZH2 sits on a stretched chassis
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The Chevy Colorado ZH2 sits on a stretched chassis
GM developed the Chevy Colorado ZH2 with the US Army TARDEC
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GM developed the Chevy Colorado ZH2 with the US Army TARDEC
A sleek, new face includes slimmed headlights
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A sleek, new face includes slimmed headlights
Off-road roof lighting on the Chevy Colorado ZH2
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Off-road roof lighting on the Chevy Colorado ZH2
The heart of the Colorado ZH2 design is the fuel cell electric powertrain
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The heart of the Colorado ZH2 design is the fuel cell electric powertrain
The Exportable Power Take-Off unit (EPTO) brings power afield 
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The Exportable Power Take-Off unit (EPTO) brings power afield 
BFGoodrich Mud Terrain tires on the Chevy Colorado ZH2 
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BFGoodrich Mud Terrain tires on the Chevy Colorado ZH2 
Chevy Colorado ZH2
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Chevy Colorado ZH2
Chevy Colorado ZH2
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Chevy Colorado ZH2
Inside the Chevy Colorado ZH2
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Inside the Chevy Colorado ZH2
Inside the Chevy Colorado ZH2
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Inside the Chevy Colorado ZH2
The ZH2 lives up to the rugged look of the teaser
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The ZH2 lives up to the rugged look of the teaser

After a quick teaser in August, General Motors wasted no time in its October reveal of the all-new Chevy Colorado ZH2, a heavily fortified pickup truck designed for military use. The vehicle has been built up to travel to parts known and unknown, relying on a fuel cell electric powertrain to double as a portable power source. It'll do just that when it starts military testing next year.

The 2014 Colorado ZR2 concept was the toughest Chevy truck we've seen in recent times ... until today. Revealed at the fall meeting of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), the Colorado ZH2 takes that title away with ease.

The new truck stands more than 6.5 feet (198 cm) tall thanks to its 37-in BFGoodrich Mud Terrain tires and modified off-road suspension system. That compares to the 5.9-foot (180 cm) stature of a standard 2016 Colorado. The new military truck also sits on a stretched midsize pickup chassis and measures more than 7 feet (213 cm) in width, up from the 6.2 feet (189 cm) of the production Colorado.

The Chevy Colorado ZH2 has 37-in tires and a modified suspension
The Chevy Colorado ZH2 has 37-in tires and a modified suspension

Within its expanded dimensions, the ZH2 looks well tougher than the typical Colorado or its competition. It has a more 4x4-like profile thanks to high pickup bed walls that angle up into the roofline. The camouflaged hood includes a central bulge and drops into ultra-narrow headlamps flanking a smooth, clean grille design. A large front skid plate finishes off an approach angle sure to make average pickup trucks green with envy. Rugged light surrounds at the bumpers add to the truck's large, unflinching demeanor, as do the big red tow hooks, front winch and roof-mounted off-road lighting.

Chevy hasn't released details on the hydrogen fuel cell powertrain, but it makes clear that the fuel cell design is positioned to bring a host of advantages to the military. Key among those is the capability of producing electricity for powering up equipment and tools. An Exportable Power Take-Off (EPTO) unit allows military personnel to take this power off the parked truck and into the field whenever they need.

Beyond that, the fuel cell-driven electric motor powertrain operates much more quietly than a gas engine, acoustically and thermally, an obvious advantage for military operations that demand a low profile. It also creates water as a byproduct, which could be captured and used for other purposes, particularly helpful in dry environments like the desert. The electric motor provides plenty of torque to all four wheels.

The heart of the Colorado ZH2 design is the fuel cell electric powertrain
The heart of the Colorado ZH2 design is the fuel cell electric powertrain

GM worked with the US Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in developing the ZH2. The company will finish calibration testing at its Milford Proving Ground before handing the truck over to the Army in early 2017 for a year of field testing.

"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," says Charlie Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel Cell Activities.

On a semi-related note, the auto press is busy heralding the return of the Ford Bronco today, following a Detroit Free Press article quoting Bill Johnson, plant chairman for UAW Local 900, as saying, "We hate to see the products go to Mexico, but with the Ranger and the Bronco coming to Michigan Assembly that absolutely secures the future for our people a lot more than the Focus does," in response to presidential candidate Donald Trump's criticism of Ford moving jobs out of country.

So how about it GM? The "H2" (Hummer) seems like a hint that you too could be getting back into the serious off-road utility vehicle business, and a gas-powered, ZH2-based production pickup or utility vehicle seems like a natural way to go after the likes of the Bronco and Jeep Wrangler pickup.

Then again, you'll probably just water this one down into the next Trail Boss package.

Source: General Motors

10 comments
GlassHalfEmpty
Overcomplicated. Designed by an office dwelled based on child hood fantasies. This cannot be approved for any military use.
Calson
Lockheed has provided the military with the most expensive fighter jet every built and bought at $1 billion a copy, so now we have General Motors working to produce the most expensive Jeep ever built. What is not mentioned is all the infrastructure that would need to be in place to get the fuel cells to the vehicles in hostile territory. We spend $20 a gallon to get gasoline to vehicles in Afghanistan as it is and that does not include the millions of dollars in bribes paid to the local warlords to keep them from attacking convoys.
Idahosagebrush
"On a semi-related note,..." What does this have to do with the subject of this story in any way? I read your articles for their technical aspects and if I want to hear about UAW criticism of Trump I'm sure there are many stories that can be read on the "news" websites. Yes, politics do intersect with tech as in many ways, but not as stated here. On the vehicle in this story, the benefits of low thermal signature and being quiet would be great, but I'm wondering how good the armor is. will it be able to stop a 50 caliber sized round to the "engine" or running gear and keep going? How about IED's? The height would help some, but will it be powerful enough to carry the armor necessary to protect the occupants? The early Humvee's that were "up armored" in Iraq were grossly under powered after the kits were installed. I agree with GlassHalfEmpty. To his comments, I would add that it sounds to me like an attempt to put experimental "green" technology on the battlefield. Wouldn't want to pollute the air there! Some of you tree huggers ought to go and visit the middle east where vehicles like this would likely be deployed. It would take you a very very short time to realize there are far greater solutions needing to be found to help this world than "green" combat vehicles.
Joe Henderson
I'm sure there'll be plenty of hydrogen fueling stations around to fill it up.
Charles Barnard
Is a pickup useful if the rear bed is under 4' long? The main advantage of the original Willies Jeep was it's low cost per unit and ease of maintenance. By nature, military equipment is disposable, so it makes little sense to invest in hugely expensive vehicles.
bullmtl
Hydrogen producing apparatus Patent number: 6790324 Abstract: An apparatus for producing orthohydrogen and/or parahydrogen. The apparatus includes a container holding water and at least one pair of closely-spaced electrodes arranged within the container and submerged in the water. A first power supply provides a particular first pulsed signal to the electrodes. A coil may also be arranged within the container and submerged in the water if the production of parahydrogen is also required. A second power supply provides a second pulsed signal to the coil through a switch to apply energy to the water. When the second power supply is disconnected from the coil by the switch and only the electrodes receive a pulsed signal, then orthohydrogen can be produced. When the second power supply is connected to the coil and both the electrodes and coil receive pulsed signals, then the first and second pulsed signals can be controlled to produce parahydrogen. Type: Grant Filed: June 25, 2002 Date of Patent: September 14, 2004 Assignee: Xogen Power Inc. Inventor: Stephen Barrie Chambers
bullmtl
I vote for a High boost turbodiesel instead of some high dollar fuel cell,etc. These SOB's need to show to world what they ALL were capable of in WW2. Instead of the typical SOAK THE TAXPAYER MODE!
ljaques
@bullmtl, I agree with you on the Soak the Taxpayer mode they're in. My vote, however, would go toward micronulear power supplies and electric vehicles. Plug your car into your house at night to recharge the HOUSE (over whatever the solar panels provided). Power supplies which last decades, if not centuries, and produce no greenhouse gases while using no clear surface water or any fossil fuels. Heat produced would be used for the passenger compartment in the winter, vented in the summer. Contractors would run their tools off their trucks, employee vehicles could power up the department stores (again over what the on-site solar array could provide). Let's make it happen!
PeterRnz
ljaques - great idea in principle. But the first time one of these crashed the whole city (?country) would need to be evacuated.
Sagraia
I'm wondering how it was designed to go to parts unknown.... perhaps you'd make it from parts unknown and hope for a match?