General Motors Company is working with the Office of Naval Research and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory on ways to incorporate automotive fuel-cell technology into unmanned underwater vehicles.
GM is developing hydrogen fuel cell-powered drones that can operate without recharging for more than 60 days.
This is not the first time GM is working with the US military because the automaker signed a contract with the Army to build and demonstrate a fuel-cell reconnaissance vehicle for the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in Warren.
“When you look at what the Navy’s trying to do with unmanned undersea vehicles, they’re looking for weeks, if not months of endurance and therefore we require a highly reliable system,” said Karen Swider Lyons, head of alternative energy division at the Naval Research Laboratory, during a conference call June 23.
“Highly reliable systems can take decades to develop and billions of dollars and we think we’ve found that with our partnership with General Motors.”
Research has shown that fuel cell technology is superior for long endurance travel, said Lyons. Hydrogen fuel cells don’t generate carbon dioxide emissions, which is desirable for its benefits to the environment and because it’s stealthier.
Once the hydrogen gas is converted to electricity, water vapor is the only emission, and recharging takes only minutes.
Under the Office of Naval Research’s Innovative Naval Prototype program for unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), energy is a core technology in the Navy’s goals for vehicles with more than 60 days’ endurance.
“Highly reliable systems can take decades to develop and billions of dollars, and we think we’ve found that with our partnership with General Motors,” Lyons said.