While General Motors has cut back its fuel-cell research efforts for passenger cars, it has joined forces with the U.S. Army to build a Chevrolet Colorado mid-size pickup truck that is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.

The "extreme off-road" vehicle will be used as part of an ongoing research effort to see if fuel-cell powertrains can stand up to the rigors of military duty.

The truck will undergo testing for one year as GM continues to work with the Army's Tank Automotive Development, Research & Engineering Center (TARDEC) on fuel-cell development.

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In late 2013, the two entities announced a collaboration to test the durability of fuel-cell components.

GM also built a new fuel-cell research facility" in Pontiac, Michigan, about 20 minutes from TARDEC's own facility in Warren.

Fuel cells have several qualities that could make them attractive for military use, GM and TARDEC say.

2016 Chevrolet Colorado Duramax diesel

2016 Chevrolet Colorado Duramax diesel

The carmaker claims that fuel-cell powertrains generally have greater low-end torque than comparable internal-combustion units, and says their quietness and ability to export electric power could be useful in military and commercial applications.

The stealthiness of a near-silent vehicle is definitely attractive to the Army, said TARDEC Director Paul Rogers.

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So is fuel cells' generation of water as a byproduct, which could be useful in "austere environments," he said.

While GM appears to be focusing more on battery-electric cars when it comes to production vehicles, the automaker is still active in fuel-cell research.

GM's military fuel cell fleet

GM's military fuel cell fleet

In addition to the effort with TARDEC, GM signed an agreement with Honda in 2013 to develop "next-generation fuel-cell system and hydrogen-storage technologies" by 2020.

Seeking partners for fuel-cell research helps GM share some of the costs of developing the technology, taking some of the risk from a potentially expensive research undertaking.

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GM's current efforts were preceded by the deployment of a 119-vehicle fleet of modified Chevrolet Equinox crossovers in 2007, an effort known as "Project Driveway."

The fuel-cell test vehicles were loaned to more than 5,000 consumers, who drove them a combined 3 million miles before the program ended.


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