Much like microwaves and satellites, the US military could serve as an incubator for hydrogen fuel cell vehicle technology, helping it advance to a point where it can stand on its own in the global marketplace. In one of the latest examples of the private sector collaborating with the military on new technologies, General Motors and the U.S. Army, Pacific recently launched a 16 hydrogen fuel cell vehicle fleet in Hawaii.
The US Army views this as a worthwhile investment because of its desire to reduce fossil fuel reliance, which can be a security concern. The contract is for a fleet of administrative vehicles that will be driven on base and around Oahu.
This initiative is a relatively small start given total military fuel consumption, but the Hawaiian project could be an important milestone if it proves successful. And road vehicles are just one component of wider hydrogen fuel cell experimentation. The Army and other armed services branches are pursuing hydrogen fuel cell technology for other applications including unmanned aerial vehicles, underwater vehicles, robotics and freight transport tools like forklifts, said James Muldoon, Science Officer, U.S. Army.
From GM’s perspective, military contracts like this one can serve as a launch pad to the private marketplace. If the Army becomes a successful hydrogen fuel cell vehicle fleet-user, it can attract private companies, says Charles Freese, Executive Director of Fuel Cell Activities at GM.
Hydrogen fuel cells are nothing new – NASA has been using them for 50 years – the technology is proven says James Muldoon. According to Freese, GM has been experimenting with the technology for over 15 years and has learned a great deal along the way, greatly reducing fuel cell size and weight, while increasing drivable range, which can now reach approximately 300 miles.