GM intensifies Army's hydrogen fuel cell research

GM is expanding a research project with the U.S. Army to accelerate the development of hydrogen fuel cells.

The company will work more closely with the military's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) to research and test new materials and designs, it said in a statement this week.

GM is a forerunner in fuel cell research and earlier this year teamed up with Honda in a joint effort to bring affordable hydrogen-powered vehicles onto the market by the end of the decade.

The Department of Defense already had been collaborating with GM in Hawaii to test and evaluate fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen refueling infrastructure, said Kevin Centeck, TARDEC engineer and fuel cell team lead.

"Previously, GM and TARDEC demonstrated a fuel cell pick-up truck at Fort Belvoir, working as a utility vehicle," he added.

Now, TARDEC and GM will engage in a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, using their research centers located 20 miles apart. The project likely will last five years, GM said. However, neither GM nor TARDEC would disclose the investment needed or whether the project would create any new jobs.

Some Hawaii vehicles have Exportable Power Take-Off (EPTO) capability, allowing them to serve as 25 kW emergency mobile generators, said Charles Freese, GM's general director of global fuel cell activities.

"This is enough power to provide electricity to a small subdivision or an emergency field base," he added. "GM and the Navy are currently evaluating fuel cells in unmanned undersea vehicles, due to the higher energy density capability for the technology."

Other applications for fuel cells have been demonstrated in unmanned aerial and ground systems.

Fuel cells are attractive to the military because they have 2.3 times the efficiency of conventional powertrains and take around three minutes to refuel in spite of their high energy density. In particular, the stealth aspects are appealing: They're quiet and have a low thermal footprint, which is good for combat usage.

This article originally appeared at Business Green.

Hydrogen fuel cell image by Siemens PLM Software via Compfight cc