Yellow Submarine: GM And U.S. Navy Announce Collaboration Over Fuel-Cell Powered, Unmanned Underwater Vehicles1
General Motors and the United States military have a long, storied history. The chapters continue to be penned today, with the automaker’s announcement of a collaboration between the U.S. Navy over fuel-cell powered, unmanned underwater vehicles, or UUVs.
“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.”
The hydrogen fuel cells convert hydrogen into electricity, resulting in greater range and efficiency than in normal batteries. It’s a small step in achieving the Navy’s goal of 60-day range and endurance.
GM lends its hydrogen expertise following three million miles of real, on-road use during its Project Driveway fuel cell program, which it hopes will help the U.S. Navy in engineering zero-emission UUVs, and lower costs due to economies of scale.
“The collaboration with the Navy leveraged what we learned in amassing more than three 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.”
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Fuel cell powered submariines are viable and necessary to offset the heavier weight of batteries. The U.S. Navy can supply the hydrogen through their own ships. But for personal transportation on land, H2 fuel cells is impractical, and keeps FCV owners tied to refueling stations. The pure batteyr electric vehicle is much simpler, and overnight charging is still the best alternative.