With hurricanes and disaster relief top of mind for the US government, General Motors is this week presenting military leaders with a platform design it hopes can one day help. The multi-vehicle Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (SURUS) uses a fuel cell powertrain and autonomous capabilities to present advantages in disaster relief operations, global conflicts and other complex logistics scenarios. SURUS-based vehicles would limit human exposure and further mission viability by enabling trucks to navigate themselves quietly and odor-free into dangerous scenarios and difficult-to-reach locales.

GM is presenting the SURUS platform at the Association of the United State Army's fall meeting, the same venue at which it presented the Chevy Colorado ZH2 fuel cell utility vehicle last year. The US Army began testing the ZH2 in April, and according to GM, that testing has so far shown that the fuel cell electric powertrain helps cut noise to the point that the ZH2 can get 10 times closer to its destination before being detected, as compared to a current military vehicle. GM stresses that the fuel cell platform also offers advantages for in-field power generation and fuel use. Plans call for testing to continue through Spring 2018.

GM is hoping to build on the momentum of the Colorado ZH2 with the SURUS platform, which could underpin both military and commercial vehicles. GM mentions applications like commercial freight, military vehicles, medium- and light-duty pickups, and mobile power generation stations.

The SURUS is a large, skateboard-style chassis that features an integrated Gen 2 fuel cell, two electric drive units, a lithium-ion battery, enough hydrogen storage for around 400 miles (644 km) of range, and advanced electronics controls. The SURUS concept also incorporates four-wheel steering, existing GM truck chassis components and an "advanced, industry-leading suspension." It's designed with both road and off-road use in mind.

GM is vague about the specifics of the "highly mobile autonomous capability," but it does say the platform could reduce manpower by allowing for trucks to operate in a "leader-follower" configuration, which sounds like a self-driving platoon.

Along with the reduced manpower, GM says the platform would decrease the heat signature, noise and odor associated with vehicles of this nature, a clear advantage for operations that demand a low probability of detection. Other cited benefits include exportable power and water generation capabilities, quick refueling times, field configurability and instantaneous high torque.

GM says that it's in talks with the US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), with which it also worked on the ZH2. The parties are examining SURUS as the starting point of possible further collaboration on fuel cell technology for future military applications.

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