The Most Badass Hydrogen-Powered Pickup Yet

Finally, a badass truck doesn’t rely on rotten dinosaurs for fuel. The Chevy Colorado ZH2 looks wicked, and emits nothing but water.

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Called “the most extreme off-road-capable fuel-cell-powered electric vehicle ever from General Motors,” in a press release, the ZH2 stands an imposing 6½ feet tall and more than seven feet wide.

But while the 4×4 monster is intended for military service and rides on burly 37-inch tires, it emits less pollution than a Prius. That’s because it burns hydrogen for fuel. And you know what hydrogen plus oxygen makes? Water. Just water.

Why Fuel Cells?

OK, you’ve seen the photos of the ZH2. It looks badass. But what’s up with this hippy-dippy fuel cell nonsense?

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Before you roll coal on the idea, hear it out. Fuel cells were developed way back in 1800s, and helped fuel Project Gemini space missions back in the 1960s. They’re nothing new, just sort of ignored by the auto industry.

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But fuel cells have huge potential in vehicles. Fuel cells use hydrogen to create energy through chemical reactions that result in two things – electricity and waste water (and a little carbon dioxide).

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s a little taste of what electricity can do from the starting line.

So yeah, electric motors can be fast, and diesel-electric engines are capable of producing massive torque. Electricity should thus be able to tow your boat, no problem.

So can a hydrogen fuel cell produce enough electricity to make your trip to the mountains enjoyable and worry-free? Looks like the military will do the testing to find out for you.

Chevy ZH2: Will Fuel Cells Be Military Trickle-Down?

According to Chevy, the U.S. Army will test the truck in field conditions next year to determine the viability of hydrogen-powered vehicles on military missions. And if the military deems it good enough, it will likely be good enough for the weekend warrior.

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“The Colorado ZH2 is a terrific example of GM’s engineering and design skill in creating an off-road vehicle relevant to a range of potential users,” said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel Cell Activities. “Over the next year, we expect to learn from the Army the limits of what a fuel cell propulsion system can do when really put to the test.”

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This strikes us as really good news. A diverse energy portfolio will help the world wean off the use of fossil fuels. Hydrogen to power fuel cells can be created through solar, wind, or other renewables.

And your truck will still look badass, bubba.

Back To That Truck

Environmental message aside, this is a wicked cool truck. According to GM, the U.S. Army will test the truck’s fuel cell for five things your lifted pickup can’t do:

  • Near-silent operation enabling silent watch capability
  • Reduced acoustic and thermal signatures
  • High wheel torque at all speeds via electric drive
  • Low fuel consumption across operating range
  • Water by-product for field uses

So, the you could ostensibly drink your truck’s exhaust. Awesome.

Let’s take a quick look at the interior:

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We see cup holders. Are those military grade? We also see an automatic transmission (of frigging course) and a very consumer-ish dashboard.

Is Chevy testing the consumer market with this “military” truck? Sure seems that way. For now, this isn’t a consumer release, but from the looks of this truck, it seems destined for showrooms.

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We can only hope to be testing it on a high mountain pass very soon. We’ll drive. Anybody want to call shotgun?

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Editor-in-Chief Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie’s Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.

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