Two Tactical Edge Hydrogen Generation Trailer Prototypes in Development

Initial hydrogen generation prototype from Zepher Flight Labs. (Image: Zepher Flight Labs)

The Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office (E2O), Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific (NIWC PAC), and the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) have partnered to leverage commercial solutions that can convert water into hydrogen in austere and isolated environments. The resulting hydrogen will be used to power unmanned aerial systems (UAS), small unit equipment, balloons, and tactical vehicles.

Leveraging hydrogen fuel cells gives operating forces new capabilities. These include longer flight and drive ranges, less electronic signature, lower maintenance requirements, higher energy resilience, and, most importantly, reduced dependence on fuel supply chains, which are vulnerable to disruption in contested logistics environments.

“Commercial technology and energy companies have led the way in creating hydrogen-powered solutions and capabilities, and the HyTEC program helps capture some of those gains to enable operational capabilities in a contested logistics environment,” said Andrew Mawdsley, DIU HyTEC Program Manager. “With this new capability and by generating hydrogen power at the tactical edge, small units will be better able to self-sustain operations in remote locations and will be less reliant on fuel supply chains.”

DIU recently selected Zepher Flight Labs and NovaSpark Energy to prototype the hydrogen generation trailer for field experimentation and to inform future operational requirements. These vendors were selected from a highly competitive field of commercial technology company applicants.

Additional project HyTEC collaborators and evaluators include USINDOPACOM, the Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office, the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific, the Naval Research Laboratory, the U.S. Army Ground Vehicle Systems Center, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

NovaSpark Energy and Zepher Flight Labs are building the HyTEC prototypes over the course of 2024 and will be ready for testing and field experimentation in early 2025.