Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell vehicle at Camp Pendleton hydrogen fueling station, photo by Joe Tash
Every time we make a joke involving the US Marine Corps, first we check it with our friend Cap'n Connors, a former Marine.
With multiple deployments under his belt, and much multicolored art under his skin, the cap'n is our source for all things having to do with the most profane of the armed forces.
Even he was impressed at the steps his service has taken to green its Camp Pendleton base along the southern California coast. And a substantial portion of their efforts go toward alternative-fueled vehicles.
Most prominent are two Chevrolet Equinox Fuel-Cell Vehicles, the popular midsize crossover converted to electric power provided by the electricity generated in a hydrogen fuel-cell.
They are part of "Project Driveway," General Motors' program to get real-world data on how drivers use more than 100 fuel-cell cars. The drivers come from government fleets, including the military, utility companies, private firms, and even civilians.
Almost three years ago, we drove a precursor to the Equinox Fuel-Cell vehicles, the Chevrolet Sequel concept, at Camp Pendleton. As we said then, the most remarkable thing was how normal it felt: Behind the wheel, it drives and steers like a heavy SUV.
The fuel cell vehicles are a tiny minority of the 3,000 vehicles on base, however. And they may remain that way; despite low-volume production vehicles from GM, Honda, and Mazda, the future of hydrogen fuel-cell power is likely to be postponed or usurped by electric cars with larger lithium-ion battery packs.
The Marines are also using several hundred vehicles fueled by compressed natural gas, which has a far lower greenhouse-gas profile than do diesel or gasoline.
The only such natural-gas vehicle available to civilians, however, is the 2009 Honda Civic GX.
In addition to their vehicular efforts, base commanders have diverted 11,000 tons of landfill material through recycling, including spent shell casings and even scrap steel from old bridges. Next up: a composting program.
But even if they're going green, we bet they still swear a blue streak.
2007 Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell Vehicle