By Ms. Lori Grein (IMCOM)August 27, 2009
DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. - The USAG-Detroit Arsenal Fire Department has embraced a revolutionary ride-an energy efficient, hydrogen-electric vehicle!
In a partnership with the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center National Automotive Center, the garrison was granted two test vehicles so as to collect real-time data for the engineers.
Capt. Fred Napier, Fire Inspector, explained, "The garrison has always had a long working relationship with TARDEC. We jumped at the chance to take a proactive step to see how hydrogen vehicles work to support the Fire Department."
Teaming up with external contractors, the TARDEC NAC converted the hybrid-electric Ford Escape Sport Utility Vehicle to operate on compressed hydrogen. The eleven vehicles in fleet were then dispersed throughout the continental US and Hawaii so as to evaluate operations in varying climates and duty cycles.
Testers record information to assist with data collection, concentrating on areas such as fuel economy, speed, telemetry, hydrogen pressure, and oil pressure. In turn, the Fire Department receives test vehicles at no charge. When considering leasing costs, vehicle maintenance, and gas prices, substantial savings can result. "It's a win-win situation," explains Napier.
The nearby Selfridge Air National Guard Base has a Chevron refueling station which supplies the compressed hydrogen for the fuel cells. Since stations are not readily available to the public, this could be an area of challenge, should the vehicles become commercialized.
The biggest economical gain to the government and consumers appears to be fuel savings. With a top speed of 120 miles per hour, the hydrogen-electric automobiles can travel about 100 miles on approximately 4 kg of hydrogen. (4 kg of hydrogen roughly equals 4 gallons of gas.)
The author had the opportunity to personally test drive the vehicle, reaching up 65 mph on the highway. The acceleration was quick with little or no noise vibration in the cab; and although the transmission appeared to shift at higher engine revolutions per minute than conventional automobiles, it was still quite smooth in its operation. Overall, the ride was comfortable.
Napier stressed that the vehicles are only in the test stage but was quick to extend his appreciation to TARDEC for "giving us the opportunity to evaluate the practicality [of the vehicle] and bring the Fire Department to a more environmentally-friendly state. The partnership makes sense."
The USAG-Detroit Arsenal takes pride in developing partnerships to promote advanced technology for a cleaner environment. Through collaboration and teamwork with the TARDEC NAC, the garrison's Fire Department is helping to pave the way for the future.