US Navy Adopts Fuel Cell Technology For Submersibles

If you are the US Navy, you need lots of vehicles that are far from ordinary. One such vehicle is called an unmanned undersea vehicle or UUV. The US Naval Research Laboratory and the Office of Naval Research are planning the next generation of large UUVs. One of their goals is that the vessels be capable of operating for up to 60 days continuously. At present, battery powered UUV’s simply are not capable of fulfilling such extended missions.

US Navy fuel cell powered UUV

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 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.”

Source: Electric Cars Report    Image Credit: US Navy

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.