WARREN, Mich., 10 June 2005. The U.S. Army's Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) announced that a fuel cell-powered semi-tractor successfully completed a cross-country trip from California to Washington, D.C.
TARDEC's National Automotive Center collaborated with SunLine Transit Agency and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) to modify a standard Class 8 commercial truck by using engine electrification and a fuel cell auxiliary power unit (APU) to complete the 2,650-mile journey.
"Driving a vehicle of this size cross-country with electric power is truly a remarkable accomplishment," says Dr. Richard McClelland, director of TARDEC. "Fuel efficiency is vital for the military. This milestone proves the viability of fuel cell technology for heavy-duty applications, and underscores TARDEC's commitment to work with commercial industry to establish military requirements for alternative energy-powered vehicles."
SwRI engineers converted the truck's water pump, radiator cooling fan, air compressor, air conditioning compressor, and air conditioner condenser fan from engine-powered belts and pulleys to electric power. Removing these "parasitic" loads from the engine and powering them electrically enables the engine's full motive power to propel the truck and increases the overall efficiency of the truck.
To power the accessories, SwRI integrated a fuel cell APU that is independent of the engine and is fueled with hydrogen gas. The proton exchange membrane APU is capable of producing up to 20 kilowatts of power at 42 volts DC, although the truck typically uses no more than approximately 7 kilowatts for normal operation. Hydrogen for the fuel cell is stored in three compressed gas cylinders aboard the truck. The tanks hold approximately 11 pounds of hydrogen, or the equivalent energy of about five gallons of gasoline.
TARDEC, headquartered at the Detroit Arsenal, Warren, Michigan, is the nation's laboratory for advanced military automotive technology. It is part of the U.S. Army Materiel Command's RDECOM.