Chevrolet Equinox hydrogen fuel cell vehicle  (Source: Chevrolet)
Research continues into hydrogen fuel cell technology, used by the military

Research continues into vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells, with automakers and government contractors investing millions into the fuel technology.

Since late 2011, the United States Marine Corps, Army and Navy have tested sixteen Chevrolet Equinox vehicles in Hawaii, according to the GM Fuel Cell Group.

Higher interest in hydrogen fuel cells is in effort to find alternatives to regular gasoline and oil that is expensive and sometimes difficult to come by on the battlefield.

"Our pursuit of alternative energy is closely tied to our commitment to continually adapt to an ever-changing security environment,” said George Ka'iliwai, U.S. Pacific Command Director of Resources, in a press statement. "Defense relationships and military approaches alone can’t solve all of our energy challenges, but they underpin the initiatives we’re taking within the Department of Defense to reduce the dependence on foreign sources of energy.”

In addition, fuel cells allow cars to be designed more freely, depending on the type of vehicle and their role in the field. As an example, one vehicle can be used as a rolling generator that can power several homes or small buildings at a single time, or can be used as a mobile command center for military forces.

The U.S. military also is testing the effort behind producing hydrogen required to power fuel cells, and is relying heavily on the private sector to help raise capital.

Suzuki is actively developing fuel cell scooters and motorcycles, with public demonstrations carried out over the past five years. Additional automakers have shown increased interest in fuel cell development, but rely on government subsidies to help generate funding for programs.

As fuel cell popularity continues to increase, however, the fuel cell supply chain needs to grow away from such heavy reliance on government funding. According to Pike Research's Kerry-Ann Adamson, lead researcher, the fuel cell industry will rebound strongly and remain viable by 2015-2016.

The 2015-2016 time frame appears to be on track with GM's goal of a mass rollout of fuel cell vehicles within the next four years.

Sources: Military Times, Sun Herald

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