Army to test GM's fuel cell vehicle

By Army News ServiceOctober 5, 2006

Army to test GM's fuel cell vehicle
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Army to test GM's fuel cell vehicle
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FORT BELVOIR, Va. (Army News Service, Sept. 26, 2006) - The Army has become the first of General Motors' customers to receive the corporation's latest in fuel cell technology.

Larry Burns, GM's vice president of research, development and strategic planning, relinquished the keys to a 2006 Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell prototype to Maj. Gen. Roger A. Nadeau, commander of the Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command, in a Capitol Hill ceremony Sept. 21.

"I'm absolutely delighted as a Soldier to stand here today and accept these keys from General Motors - to get ready to take this piece of equipment through its paces in a shared way with private industry, and to do it faster and cheaper," Nadeau said.

As part of Project Driveway, GM will test more than 100 Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell vehicles through consumers in three key regions: California, Washington, D.C., and New York. The Army's fuel cell vehicle is the first one of that fleet to be built and delivered. The rest will be placed with consumers beginning in the fall of 2007.

The keys "are more than the keys to a vehicle - they are literally the keys to a brighter future for the United States," said Sen. Carl Levin, a Senate Armed Services Committee member and longtime alternative fuel technology advocate.

The Chevy SUV looks like most gasoline versions in its class, but sounds more like a small jet engine as it revs up, producing exhaust that is cool to the touch with water dripping from the tailpipe as a by-product.

Weighing about 4,731 pounds, the Equinox fuel cell prototype can reach speeds of 100 mph running on compressed hydrogen.

"This vehicle is an enhancement to the performance of the previous vehicle," said Daniel O'Connell, director of GM's fuel cell fleet and services. "This particular unit has a single fuel cell power module, which gives us a significantly greater amount of power (compared to the dual-fuel-cell-powered Chevy GMT800 pick-up truck delivered to the Army for testing in April 2005)."

The next generation fuel cell vehicle will not be used for combat, but rather in a transportation capacity on military installations.

"The ability to use hydrogen fuel - for the moment confined to the non-tactical fleet - will allow us to find out things we don't know and validate things we do know, and get ready for the next advancement in this technology," Nadeau said.

Army researchers will put the vehicle through a battery of tests under a myriad of conditions, then share the results with GM researchers.

"The ability to do this research in a cooperative way with private industry allows both to advance technology faster and cheaper than either one of us could have done individually," Nadeau said.

As with other hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, the Army will train workers on operating and maintaining the Equinox, which will be used strictly for administrative purposes.

"We will learn from driving this thing into the ground - put it through the paces, figure out what it can do and what it can't do, and figure out what we need to do to make it do better," Nadeau said.

For the Army and GM, cooperative developmental efforts are mutually beneficial.

"For GM, programs like this are very important because it will help us accelerate the development of cost-effective, durable vehicles for both military and civilian applications," said Burns.

"The Army is a great opportunity for us to get some advance learning ... to put our fuel activities at various bases and for a lot of them to learn how to handle hydrogen, evaluate how to handle hydrogen, refuel the vehicle and give that experience, so it's a great opportunity for both of us to get some real-world learning in the military's application of the technology," added O'Connell.