General Motors and the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) filled the new ZH2 military fuel cell vehicle at Proton’s hydrogen fueling station in Washington, DC last Friday. This new prototype vehicle is being tested by the Army at several domestic bases this year. It has the potential to provide the Army with an important capability that cannot be achieved with today’s tactical vehicles. Conventional vehicles rely on battery power to operate auxiliary systems when the engine is not running. In forward deployed locations, these vehicles need to provide “silent watch” capability in situations where noise and thermal signatures can make them vulnerable. The ZH2 is powered by a clean, quiet, and low signature fuel cell, which can operate the auxiliary systems much longer than any batteries currently installed in these vehicles. This is a critical differentiator for fuel cells, in that they can provide long duration power in a small form factor, and can be refueled quickly with clean and sustainably produced hydrogen. You can read more about the ZH2 vehicle here
Proton’s station in Washington, DC offers an interesting configuration for deployable hydrogen fueling. The station equipment is packaged into a site ready container system which allows for ease of installation and rapid commissioning. This type of design approach could work well for the Army’s interest in operating the ZH2 in remote locations, where rapid installation of infrastructure will be critical. In addition, Proton’s electrolyzer technology enables the production of hydrogen from any source of electricity available in the theater of operation, including renewable energy sources that can reduce JP8 fuel consumption at these sites.