U.S. Army experimenting with fuel cell pickup

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DETROIT (WJRT) - (01/11/17) - If you go to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, make sure to spend some time in the lower level of Cobo. That's where the Army has a special vehicle on display.

The Army took a Chevy Colorado pickup and equipped it with fuel cells, which use hydrogen to make electricity. It's an experiment to see if it could not only be transportation, but also a power source.

"Fuel cells have some very unique attributes that we're interested in in the military, specifically they're a very, very quiet operation," said Brian Butrico, TARDEC emerging capabilities project manager.

They also produce electricity, which could come in handy.

"Those could be used, say for a field hospital or a forward operating base," Butrico said.

Fuel cells produce water as a by-product and that could be useful. The next step in the experiment is to give the pickup to the men and woman who could put it through its paces.

"We're actually going to take this vehicle, put it in the hands of soldiers and obtain their feedback. How useful are these capabilities to them," Butrico said.

There are some obstacles to overcome, such as how do you refill the tanks with hydrogen in the middle of nowhere.

"There's many ways we can produce hydrogen," Butrico said.

Also, how battle-ready would a fuel cell vehicle be?

"If there is a tank puncture, the tanks automatically seal off themselves very quickly," Butrico said.

Much of the Army's research on fuel cell vehicles is being done at its facilities in Warren.

Senator Gary Peters of Michigan got a briefing on the status of the fuel cell pickup. He's encouraged by what he heard.

"It is very exciting to see this technology first hand what's happening. It's a testament to the incredible engineering, scientific work, that's being done," Peters said.

The Colorado can go about 150 miles on a tank of hydrogen. The Army will test it at Fort Carson in Colorado and Fort Bragg in North Carolina this summer.

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