US Pacific Command Launches Fuel Cell Test Fleet

Last week in Honolulu, the four major branches of the U.S. military unveiled the “world’s first military fleet of fuel cell vehicles,” comprised of 16 General Motors vehicles.

Hawaii’s ideal climate was chosen as a first step for vehicle evaluation and utilization of associated infrastructure prior to introduction of similar technology in other states, and in other types of vehicles, including potentially those for tactical purposes.

“Once the key hydrogen infrastructure elements are proven in Hawaii, other states can adopt a similar approach,” said Charles Freese, executive director of global fuel cell activities for General Motors, a founding partner of the Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative. “The military is paving the way, demonstrating the practicality and applicability of this technology.”

The vehicles are being paid for by the Army Tank Automotive Research Development Engineering Center (TARDEC), Office of Naval Research and Air Force Research Laboratories (ONR) and Air Force Research Laboratories (AFRL).

The fuel cell vehicles can travel up to 200 miles on a single charge, refuel in five minutes and produce zero emissions.

According to the official home page of the U.S. army,, the fielding of military fuel cell vehicles with the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines is the latest effort by the Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative.

This organization, founded in December 2010 has the stated goal of “displacing petroleum imports by operating vehicles with renewable hydrogen,” and counts among its 13 sponsors GM, The U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Pacific Command, other government bodies, companies and universities.

The U.S. military has long been viewed as a driver of advanced-tech vehicle development, and is also experimenting with all other forms of clean energy alternatives.

“The Army continues to investigate technologies and partnerships that give the United States a decisive advantage,” said Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski, commanding general of U.S. Army, Pacific. “These fuel cell vehicles will help move the U.S. Army in the Pacific toward a sustainable path that reduces energy security challenges and strengthens our energy independence.”


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  • MrEnergyCzar

    Thanks for the article Jeff. You get back only half the energy you put in to crack hydrogen from water so the military is about the only entity that will use this poor fuel option. They are better off using the gas or electricity they would have used to make the hydrogen and use it directly in the vehicles as natural gas vehicles or electric vehicles.. This sends the wrong message.


  • Max Reid

    Using Electricity & Heat, its possible to extract Hydrogen more efficiently and lets hope that affordable fuel cell vehicles will give us faster re-fuelling and longer range.

  • JJJSpawn

    Not necessarily a bad idea. Especially if they use technology like Cella’s that allows for storage of Hydrogen in a new less expensive way.

  • Shines

    I must strongly agree with MrEnergyCzar. The vehicles are expensive and so is the cost of extracting hydrogen. There are many better, safer and cleaner ways to use energy.

  • jwishart

    The comments made by MrEnergyCzar and Shines are common by EV advocates. Nobody who supports fuel cell research will deny that there is an energy loss in producing hydrogen (although the 50% efficiency for electrolysis is an underestimate and the technology is improving–not to mention other methods of producing hydrogen that are being developed). And yes, the vehicles are currently more expensive (what prototype isn’t?)

    However, EV advocates who deny that fuel cells have a role to play in the transportation system omit the problems that EVs have in satisfying the needs of various applications. EVs are perfect for commuter vehicles. But vehicles that require long ranges (long-haul trucks) or have large energy demands (buses) are much more challenging for EVs. Adding battery capacity is expensive and makes the vehicle heavy. Adding hydrogen capacity is much easier. And even if you can make the case for adding battery capacity, you have the problem of charging. Setting aside the issues with getting three-phase AC power everywhere, even a Tesla Supercharger at 90 kW will take an hour to charge the largest Model S battery, let alone a bus battery that would likely be bigger. And constant fast charging means higher degradation.

    It’s important to understand that batteries and fuel cells are complementary technologies, not competing. Both have advantages and drawbacks. No fuel cell vehicle will be built without batteries because of regen braking and transient capability. And EVs simply cannot provide the solution for all transportation needs. Now, there may be other options like flow batteries that may be able to do it, but there is no reason to constantly knock down fuel cells whenever there is a post about them. This article is about technological advancement, yet there is something about fuel cells that draws so much criticism that it must be something other than just the efficiency losses.

  • alessandra

    These cars are really good for the army and I am sure that a lot of people will be interested in finding more information about them. I really like how these looks and I am sure that are very well equipped..for every difficult situation.
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