Fuel Cell Powers U.S. Army Truck

At the same time the U.S. is preparing for possible war in the oil-rich Middle East, Renewable Energy technologies like fuel cells are being considered for the military’s formidable arsenal.

Taunton, Massachusetts -November 20, 2002 [SolarAccess.com] General Dynamics C4 Systems, a business unit of General Dynamics has delivered a first-of-its-kind, fuel cell-based auxiliary power unit (APU) to SunLine Transit Agency for installation aboard the “21st Century Truck,” a government- industry collaborative effort for development of commercially viable technologies that will dramatically cut the fuel use and emissions of commercial trucks and buses. “The military has become an early adopter of this technology because of the enormous potential it holds for improving the quality of its mobile power systems,” said Chris Marzilli, vice president and general manager of commercial hardware systems for General Dynamics C4 Systems. “The tactical advantages of stealth and agility, along with the prospect of logistical savings in reliability and fuel efficiency, make this technology directly relevant to the DOD’s (Department of Defense) transformation objectives.” As configured for the 21st Century Truck, the 5 kW power unit will act as a battery charger to electrify the air conditioning and other driver utilities in the concept Class 8 tractor when it is parked, avoiding the noise, emissions and expense of running the vehicle’s engine for electrical power. Class 8 trucks (mostly tractor semi-trailers) consume approximately 68 percent of all commercial truck fuel used, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy. General Dynamics integrated an Acumentrics Corporation 5 kW fuel cell “stack,” which is based on Acumentrics’ proprietary solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology, into a specially designed cabinet housing the power plant, thermal management system, power electronics and controls. The advanced fuel cell APU system is mounted behind the experimental truck’s cab and provides a continuous charge to a 42-volt DC battery system to power the environmental control unit and other engine loads. Partners in the 21st Century Truck program include the U.S. Army, the U.S. Departments of Energy and Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. trucking industry. The National Automotive Center, Tank- automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) is the Army’s lead agency for the program. The U.S. Army is interested in electrification of diesel engine loads in order to improve the efficiency and exhaust emissions of its systems, achieve enhanced silent watch capability, ease cooling loads to tightly packed radiators and decrease the space claim of a bare engine by moving loads to off-engine locations. It may be possible to increase the life of components by running them only when needed or at lower speeds.
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