After teasing it several weeks back with a shadowy image showing it crouched like a puma in the desert dusk, Chevrolet has revealed the fuel cell-powered Colorado ZH2 off-road truck built in conjunction with the U.S. Army.
In spite of its futuristic powertrain and Transformers-spec looks, however, this hydrogen-powered Chevy isn’t some concept vehicle made to tour the auto show circuit. The Army wants to see how well fuel cell vehicles could handle the distinct demands of military life, so it intends to put the Colorado ZH2—which was developed in less than a year by a partnership between General Motors and the U.S. military’s U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC—to the test in the field next year.
Fuel cell vehicles—which, in case you’ve forgotten, are simply electric cars that get their power from a built-in hydrogen fuel cell instead of batteries—have an awful lot of tactical potential not found in fossil fuel-powered cars and trucks. Electric motors are more quiet than gas engines, generate less heat, and deliver all their torque at zero rpm for quicker off-the-line operation. Plus, fuel cells create pure H20 as a byproduct, which could be a boon to thirty troops operating in dry desert terrain. Come 2017, the Army intends to use the ZH2 [H2, as in hydrogen, get it? -Ed.] to test the viability of all these features in a combat-like environment.
The ZH2 is more than just a fuel cell-and-facelift makeover of the regular Colorado, however. Much like Steve Rogers, the Colorado has bulked up for military life, with the fuel cell-powered truck stands six and a half feet wide and more than seven feet across. Recaro racing seats keep the troops safe and snug in the face of high-speed maneuvers. And 37-inch off-road tires and a new suspension setup are designed to help it clamber over whatever nightmarish terrain the wars of tomorrow are fought on.
And on a completely unrelated side note: If GM wants to slap that front end on the production Colorado, the carmaker sure wouldn’t hear any complaints on our end.