The University of Texas at Austin Delivers Extended Range Hydrogen Fuel Cell Utility Vehicles to Department of Defense

The University of Texas at Austin, in partnership with the Atlanta-based Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE), has completed and delivered two hydrogen-powered utility vehicles to the Department of Defense-Defense Logistics Agency.

Compared to standard electric cart vehicles, these vehicles have greater range and run on greener technology.

The project is a response to a government effort to push hydrogen transportation technology closer to significant market adoption over the next 10 years. The Center for Electromechanics (CEM) at The University of Texas at Austin completed the final design, integration and delivery of two prototype hydrogen utility vehicles for a 12-month operational demonstration at Defense Distribution Depot Warner Robins, Georgia.

The vehicles feature on-board hydrogen storage that extends the operating range of electric utility vehicles. Initial testing has demonstrated a range of more than 300 miles, which represents an increase by almost a factor of 10. The CEM developed and installed the control system between the hydrogen system and the motor that replaced the standard battery.

In addition to the CEM, the project team includes the CTE (project leader), the Gas Technology Institute, Hydrogenics Corp. and Columbia ParCar. The team recently displayed the vehicles at the Fuel Cell Seminar in San Antonio, Texas. Demonstration in Warner Robins is to begin in November.

In Phase I of the project, the team conducted an engineering design analysis to identify and compare potential hydrogen storage technologies, fuel cell options, electrical energy storage and powertrain architectures for use on an electric utility vehicle. The analysis identified trade-offs in performance for each of the options, including weight, volume, cost, safety and commercialization potential.

The analysis led to a report comparing the resulting vehicle to a vehicle operating on the latest batteries. Based on the results, the team selected an 8.5 kW fuel cell hybrid configuration, including 350-bar high-pressure hydrogen storage and ultracapacitors for energy storage as the best drive train option for this application.

The team was selected to build, test and demonstrate the vehicles under Phase II of the program. Performance and reliability data will be collected throughout the 12-month pilot for evaluation and potential for future markets.

The CEM is also working with the Defense Logistics Agency to convert additional operational vehicles to hydrogen fuel cell technologies.