General Motors has announced it will be working with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and the Office of Naval Research to incorporate automotive hydrogen fuel cell systems into the next-generation of unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs).
According to the automaker, hydrogen fuel cells provide a number of benefits for UUVs including greater range and longer endurance than those powered by traditional batteries. These features are important as the U.S. Navy wants to develop a UUV that can last for more than 60 days at sea.
The Naval Research Laboratory recently conducted an evaluation of a UUV prototype equipped with a GM fuel cell at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Carderock, Maryland. The tests were so successful that one official remarked the "prototype shows that fuel cells can be game changers for autonomous underwater systems."
In a statement, GM's executive director of Global Fuel Cell Activities Charlie Freese said “The collaboration with the Navy leveraged what we learned in amassing more than 3 million miles of real-world experience with our Project Driveway fuel cell program." He added, "Our customers will benefit from additional lessons we learn about the performance of fuel cells in non-automotive applications that will be useful in GM’s drive to offer fuel cells across consumer markets.”
GM and U.S. Navy Collaborating on Fuel Cell-Powered Underwater Unmanned Vehicles
Hydrogen fuel cell technology could augment ships and subs on patrol
WASHINGTON, D.C. – General Motors, the Office of Naval Research and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are cooperating to incorporate automotive hydrogen fuel cell systems into the next generation of Navy unmanned undersea vehicles, or UUVs.
Hydrogen fuel cells convert high-energy hydrogen efficiently into electricity, resulting in vehicles with greater range and endurance than those powered with batteries. Under the ONR’s Innovative Naval Prototype program for Large Displacement UUVs, energy is a core technology in the Navy’s goals for vehicles with more than 60 days endurance.
The Naval Research Laboratory recently concluded an evaluation of a prototype UUV equipped with a GM fuel cell at the heart of the vehicle powertrain. The tests, a key step in the development of an at-sea prototype, were conducted in pools at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Carderock, Md.
“Our in-water experiments with an integrated prototype show that fuel cells can be game changers for autonomous underwater systems," said Frank Herr, ONR's department head for Ocean Battlespace Sensing. "Reliability, high energy, and cost effectiveness — all brought to us via GM's partnering — are particularly important as Navy looks to use UUVs as force multipliers."
Hydrogen fuel cell propulsion technology helps address two major automotive environmental challenges: petroleum use and carbon dioxide emissions. Fuel cell vehicles can operate on renewable hydrogen from sources like wind and biomass stored for later use. Once converted to electricity, water vapor is the only emission. Recharging takes only minutes.
GM’s fuel cells are compact and lightweight, and have high reliability and performance. Lower cost is achievable through volume production. These attributes match the goals of the Navy to develop reliable, affordable systems.
“The collaboration with the Navy leveraged what we learned in amassing more than 3 million miles of real-world experience with our Project Driveway fuel cell program,” said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel Cell Activities. “Our customers will benefit from additional lessons we learn about the performance of fuel cells in non-automotive applications that will be useful in GM’s drive to offer fuel cells across consumer markets.”