In a bid to address commercial and military challenges caused by natural disasters, construction, and other large-scale needs, GM has stepped forward with its first-ever fuel-cell-powered platform.
Dubbed SURUS, short for Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure, the concept is comprised of an autonomous hydrogen fuel-cell platform with self-driving capabilities.
It is not to be confused for a truck, but a platform capable of carrying large loads. SURUS will be powered by GM’s second-generation Hydrotec fuel-cell system, an alternative propulsion method to electricity, as well as two electric drive units and an undescribed, “advanced” suspension. Its range will be more than 400 miles.
“Benefits include quiet and odor-free operation, off-road mobility, field configuration, instantaneous high torque, exportable power generation, water generation and quick refueling times,” says GM. The SURUS will be shown at the fall meeting of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) from Oct. 9-11.
“SURUS redefines fuel cell electric technology for both highway and off-road environments,” said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel Cell Business. “General Motors is committed to bringing new high-performance, zero-emission systems to solve complex challenges for a variety of customers.”
There are a variety of uses that can be accommodated with SURUS. It can underpin light to medium-sized utility and service trucks, serve as a self-driving cargo hauler or double as a mobile medical unit or power generator. As an open platform not obstructed by a driver’s cabin or other ancillary structure, and with an appearance resembling a skateboard, SURUS’ potential uses are nearly endless.
“SURUS will deliver highly mobile autonomous capability and agility in unpredictable terrain,” says GM which has been working with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) to find best uses for the technology. “Operating multiple vehicles in a leader-follower configuration could reduce manpower needed. For future potential military uses, the system’s inherent low heat signature and quiet operation offer benefits in environments to reduce detection and risks.”
Past GM projects utilizing hydrogen fuel cells have been met with some progress. In 2013, a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered Chevrolet Equinox completed 100,000 miles of real-world driving, saving more than 5,000 gallons of gasoline. Later that year, GM and Honda worked on a deal to build a fuel cell and hydrogen storage system with a 2020 release. Last April, GM also releases the Colorado ZH2, an off-road 4×4 truck considered the first ground-mobility combat vehicle using hydrogen fuel-cell technology.
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