General Motors Defense LLC – Full Size Fuel Cell Pickup Truck – The ZH2

Fuel cells have helped push General Motors back into working with the US Military.  GM recently created a new division called GM Defense LLC that is supplying fuel cell technology to the US military for land & submarine vehicles.   RMP has done a quick write up with some pictures of the new full size ZH2 fuel cell pickup truck concept based on the Chevy Silverado that looks ready to be used in combat missions.

General Motors  (GM) first got their start in helping the US Military in 1914.  Back then, ninety percent of GM’s truck production was directed toward war manufacturing with over 8,500 trucks going to the war effort.  The GM Model 16 was mostly used as an ambulance and had a 132-inch wheelbase with 35-by-5 pneumatic tires and a 30 horsepower engine which gave the truck a max speed of 25 miles per hour.   It was in 1942 under Franklin D Roosevelt, however, that GM morphed from automobile manufacturer to full blown war supplier.  GM made the sacrifices necessary to underwrite the successes American forces would have on international battlefields.  In February 1942, Fisher Body completely stopped making auto bodies and began assembling the famous M-4 “Sherman” tank in its No. 1 plant in Flint, Michigan. The operation eventually moved to Grand Blanc, Michigan and would turn out 11,358 tanks by 1945.

In 2003 GM sold its military products division to General Dynamics and exited the military game after a long rich history of helping our soldiers in battle.

GM SURUS fuel cell platform with autonomous capabilities, 400 mile range, and 3 minute refueling.

Fast forward 15 years later to 2018 and GM is offically back into the military service business with their new division GM Defense LLC.  GM Defense has been anticipated since the original ZH2 was shown off by TARDEC in 2016.   Anticipation of GM Defense grew further since GM showed off it’s SURUS fuel cell platform about a year ago in October of 2017.  In April of this year, GM registered its GM Defense LLC trademark.  On October 8, 2018, the day considered international hydrogen day, GM showed they had another surprise up their sleeves with the next generation ZH2 full size pickup truck platform.  The new platform looks to be a dedicated fuel cell vehicle ready for production & combat.  The new full sized ZH2 is based on the Chevy Silverado platform and was just recently debuted at the 2018 AUSA show just last week.

In 2016, RMP wrote about the original ZH2 which was a mid size Colorado pickup truck retro fitted with a generation 1 fuel cell that was much less efficient, compact, and power dense than GM’s Gen2 fuel cell, but was still a bad ass machine nonetheless.  The original ZH2 also gave up it’s normal bed space for the hydrogen tanks and was more of a proof of concept for testing.   The original ZH2 was capable of outputting 25 kW of continuous power, and most importantly to the military, it also produced potable fresh water as a by-product of making electricity.

GM’s new ZH2 Silverado fuel cell vehicle capable of over 400 miles range, off road driving, 2 gallons of water per hour production, 100 kW continuous power production, and 3 minute refueling.

The new full sized ZH2 Silverado platform (shown right & in header image ) looks to be a dedicated platform that no longer gives up any functionality of a regular full sized pickup truck.  It is capable of outputting 100 kW continuous power & also generating 2 gallons of potable fresh water per hour.  This larger dedicated fuel cell platform can also handle much heavier payloads than the original ZH2 based off of the Colorado platform and has over 400 miles of range in a 3 minute fill-up.

Information around the new ZH2 is not well known.  I just found out about it from the Jane’s article linked above.   The GM Defense LLC website was just launched October 16 with some information about the new ZH2, but details are limited.   From GM’s new website we can learn about the vehicle, as stated previously, that it’s capable of outputting up to 100 kW of sustained power, 2 gallons of water per minute, and operate both silently and odorless as fuel cell vehicles only have pure water as emissions.

GM’s Milford Proving Grounds is where one of Michigan’s handful of H2 refueling stations are located.  Milford is where the original ZH2 was tested and it is a logical guess the new ZH2 & SURUS are being tested there.

General Motors Co. and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. equally split $85 million in investment to expand their fuel-cell partnership into a new manufacturing venture called Fuel Cell System Manufacturing LLC.  This will be the auto industry’s first joint venture for fuel-cell manufacturing and will operate inside GM’s battery pack assembly plant in Brownstown Township. The companies plan to mass-produce a hydrogen fuel-cell system to be used in vehicles starting around 2020. The work is expected to create nearly 100 jobs.

The new plant will make GM’s Gen2 fuel cell stack that is most likely the same stack that will be used in the full size Silverado ZH2 & SURUS platforms.   My guess is that GM will do trial builds with TARDEC as mass production of fuel cells ramps up in Michigan.  The full size pickup truck platform is ideal for fuel cells because fuel cell vehicles of this size have more range of similar sized battery vehicles and also refill in 3 minutes vs the multiple hours at 240V it takes to recharge similar BEVs.   Furthermore, the key factor for the military using fuel cells is that they produce fresh water which is something batteries just can’t do.

This vehicle platform will translate well to commercial sales too as hydrogen refueling stations proliferate across the country.  RMP will keep our eyes peeled to keep you up to date on fuel cell developments across Michigan, the country, and the world.

Now the fun part.  Below are a couple of really cool videos and some pictures of the new ZH2 & SURUS vehicles.  Enjoy the pictures and videos and follow RMP on facebook & Twitter to stay up to date with fuel cell & other clean energy & environmental news.  Please share this post on your social media by clicking the share links at the bottom.

Thanks for reading

Update 6/28/2020 (GM Defense LLC is using sophisticated JavaScript that blocks RMP from being able to embed their video into into our website like when this post was originally published.  FYI, also noticed there are some really neat new hydrogen fuel cell videos on the GM Defense LLC website in the power & propulsion section if you want to check them out, click the link.

zh2 fuel cell GM
Click image to enlarge & open in a gallery.




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