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U.S. Army spotlights innovative ZH2 vehicle

By Richard Tomkins
General Motor's ZH2 vehicle demonstrator, which uses hydrogen fuel cells to generate electrical power. U.S. Army TARDEC photo
General Motor's ZH2 vehicle demonstrator, which uses hydrogen fuel cells to generate electrical power. U.S. Army TARDEC photo

Jan. 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army is to field test a vehicle from General Motors that does not produce smoke, noise, odor or have a thermal signature.

The demonstrator vehicle is called the ZH2 -- basically a modified Chevy Colorado -- fitted with a hydrogen fuel cell and electric drive, which is still in the science and technology stage.

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The ZH2 was spotlighted Thursday at the 2017 Washington Auto Show in the District of Columbia by the Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC. The Army said electricity from stacked hydrogen fuel cells powers the vehicle. They do so through an electro-chemical reaction instead of an explosive combustion process.

Hydrogen, a component of water, can come from the grid or from renewable power sources such as wind or solar, the Army said. Another way to extract hydrogen is taking it from existing fuels like gasoline, propane, and natural gas.

The Army and GM are comparing the costs and benefits to each approach but haven't decided yet on which approach to follow.

The vehicle's fuel-cell stacks are composed of layers of plates and membranes coated with platinum, which convert hydrogen and air into usable electricity.

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The hydrogen fuel cell, in addition to powering the vehicle, can also produce two gallons per hour of potable water for soldiers and can generate 25 kilowatts of continuous power -- or 50 kW of peak power. The power generation is available through outlets in the trunk when the vehicle is stationary.

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