Lauren Victoria Burke  /  AP
With a Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell vehicle behind him, Army Maj. Gen. Roger Nadeau announces on Capitol Hill Thursday that the U.S. Army will be the first customer of GM's latest fuel cell technology.
updated 9/22/2006 9:41:45 AM ET 2006-09-22T13:41:45

The Army and General Motors Corp. are collaborating to help the military learn more about the uses of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, a potential aid for soldiers on future battlefields.

The Army received the keys Thursday to a Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell vehicle, beginning a year of tests to see how the hydrogen power might support the armed services. The vehicle will be used at the Marines’ Camp Pendleton, Calif., base and the Army base at Fort Belvoir, Va.

“Everything we’re doing in the future involves power. Regular batteries won’t do it,” said Army Maj. Gen. Roger Nadeau, commander of the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command. “The capability of this fuel cell to power the platform is a very exciting thing.”

Nadeau said the testing will “allow us to find out things we don’t know and validate things we do know and get ready for the next advances that the technology brings.”

Hydrogen fuel cells produce less sound and heat than a conventional internal combustion engine. Nadeau said hydrogen fuel could also serve as a platform to power weapons.

Many obstacles exist for a hydrogen future, including a system of fueling stations, but nearly every automaker is developing hydrogen-powered vehicles. The technology is backed by a five-year, $1.2 billion hydrogen initiative announced by President Bush in his 2003 State of the Union address.

The pollution-free technology produces zero emissions and offers the potential of a sustainable energy source through the mixture of hydrogen and oxygen.

Detroit-based GM produces more than half of the nontactical military vehicles purchased each year. The automaker will deliver the Equinox fuel cell vehicle to Camp Pendleton next week for testing by the Marines and Army.

GM has committed to build more than 100 Equinox fuel cells and start placing them with customers in the fall of 2007.

Larry Burns, GM’s vice president for research and development, said “anyone who’s really serious about this technology” will be building about 1,000 vehicles in the 2010 timeframe.

“When you develop something like this, you don’t go from zero to millions in one step,” Burns said. “You do this is in a way in which you can learn from generation one to generation two to generation three.”

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