US to develop hydrogen fuel cell disaster relief vehicle to better serve emergencies

The vehicle will provide electricity, heat and even water in the midst of a disaster.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read

Maybe GM's SURUS was on to something.

General Motors

The hydrogen fuel cell is a thing of interest for the US government and its agencies. Following US Army collaboration with General Motors on the Chevy Colorado ZH2 fuel cell pickup, it appears there's more intrigue around the alternative powertrain.

This Tuesday, the US Department of Energy and the US Army revealed a new collaborative effort to develop a purpose-built disaster relief vehicle with a fuel cell powertrain. While fuel cells offer their own benefits in the form of zero emissions, the Army and DoE underscored a few other important points.

Fuel cells can provide a source of power, heat and even water for up to 72 hours. In the middle of a disaster zone, such benefits could revolutionize the way emergency crews and first responders tackle a situation. The US pointed to recent California wildfires and Hurricane Dorian's aftermath in the Bahamas as two examples where this kind of vehicle would serve well.

While the collaborative effort is new, the DoE has focused on hydrogen fuel cells longer. The department previously rolled out its H2@Scale Initiative, which focuses on creating reliable and affordable hydrogen production, transport and storage. Hydrogen powers fuel cells, which in turn creates electricity like an electric car. The added benefits as a power station of sorts come with the territory, which the Army was very interested in to improve situations in the battlefield. Fuel cells also produce a faint heat signature, which can make the vehicles far less detectable during more covert operations compared to an internal-combustion engine.

While no photos of specific details of the truck were provided, the fuel cell emergency vehicle does have an appropriate name: H2Rescue. The Army Corps of Engineers along with various partners will begin issuing a requests for proposals this fall before work starts getting underway. Pictured above is GM's Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (SURUS), which the automaker debuted as a potential fuel cell platform of the future. Perhaps we'll see the automaker take another crack at a fuel cell emergency vehicle.

Following engineering and development, H2Rescue will go through a feasibility study. The DoE and Army also plan for a joint demonstration to make sure and showcase how an emissions-free emergency vehicle isn't only eco-conscious, but better suits those who work in the field.

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