This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

January 15, 2003

GM Introduces Hybrid Electric Military Pickup with Fuel Cell

General Motors Corporation (GM) introduced on January 9th a fuel-efficient pickup truck for use by the U.S. Army. Based on the Chevrolet Silverado, the military vehicle is powered by a hybrid electric drive that features a diesel V8 engine. The truck also features a 5-kilowatt regenerative fuel cell, manufactured by Hydrogenics Corporation, that serves as an auxiliary power unit (APU) for powering equipment in the field. The fuel cell APU produces hydrogen while the truck is running, then converts the hydrogen into electricity in the field, serving as a clean and quiet generator. The hybrid diesel system can also be used as a generator, providing up to 30 kilowatts of either direct-current or alternating-current power. According to GM, the diesel hybrid system reduces fuel consumption by 20 percent compared to conventional diesel vehicles. The Army is expected to want 30,000 hybrid electric tactical vehicles by the end of this decade. See the GM press release.

GM's work for the Army is just one of several projects aimed at increased fuel efficiency for the U.S. military. For example, UQM Technologies, Inc. has been developing hybrid vehicles for the Army and announced in December a new contract to do the same for the U.S. Marine Corps. In September, that company claimed to have achieved a breakthrough in electric motor performance. Oshkosh Truck Corporation is also developing hybrid drives for the Army, while IdaTech, LLC is developing fuel cell APUs. See the press releases from UQM Technologies, IdaTech, and Oshkosh Truck.

Why all the emphasis on military fuel efficiency? One reason is a report produced by a Defense Science Board task force in January 2001, called "More Capable Warfighting through Reduced Fuel Burden." The report found that delivering fuel deep into battle areas for the Army costs hundreds of dollars per gallon. Fuel alone accounts for more than 70 percent of the total weight of materials needed to position the U.S. Army for battle. The figures are equally astounding for the U.S. Air Force, which uses 85 percent of its fuel budget to deliver, by airborne tankers, just 6 percent of its annual jet fuel use. Based on these findings, the task force recommended that the U.S. Department of Defense explicitly include fuel efficiency in its acquisition requirements, while basing its decisions on the true cost of delivered fuel. See the full report (PDF 1.12 MB). Download Acrobat Reader.