DHS spearheads effort to develop next-gen emergency response vehicle

DHS' Science and Technology Directorate partnered with Cummins on a hydrogen-powered emergency relief truck prototype dubbed H2Rescue.

DHS' Science and Technology Directorate partnered with Cummins on a hydrogen-powered emergency relief truck prototype dubbed H2Rescue. DHS Science and Technology Directorate

Officials held up the H2Rescue as an example of sustainable, emerging technologies that can be developed and deployed by leveraging interagency and public-private partnerships. 

The Department of Homeland Security is leading an interagency and public-private sector collaboration to develop an emergency response vehicle that leverages emerging technologies to provide disaster recovery sites with viable fuel alternatives for up to 72 hours.

The DHS Science and Technology Directorate unveiled the hydrogen fuel cell-powered emergency relief truck prototype in Washington D.C. Monday, the result of a three-year partnership with the Departments of Energy and Defense, the Army Corps of Engineers and Cummins — a company specializing in diesel and alternative fuel engine development — among others. 

Agency leaders said that one of the goals of the prototype is to showcase the potential of collaborative efforts between government agencies and private entities in developing and deploying next-generation technologies for emergency scenarios. 

The truck, called the "H2Rescue," operates on zero-emission power generation without putting harmful pollutants into the environment or any volatile exhaust, meaning it can provide power to an emergency shelter or up to 20 average-sized homes with little to no noise. 

“This truck will be a lifeline to communities desperately in need of one,” Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk said on Monday at an event to showcase the first-of-its-kind vehicle, adding that the truck is “designed to meet the needs of communities that have been hit the hardest” by climate change. 

The vehicle can achieve up to 1,500 miles of range on a single fueling, allowing it to reach hard-hit and remote disaster sites through the integration of an electric drivetrain, high-density lithium-ion battery packs and a hydrogen storage system. The only byproducts the truck produces are heat and water. 

Rachel Jacobson — assistant secretary of the Army installations, energy and environment — said the military branch is excited about the opportunities that hydrogen technology can yield in terms of military readiness and added that the prototype can generate more than 400 gallons of water.

The Army is partnering with industry to generate carbon-free energy at its military installations around the world and aims to have an entirely electric fleet of non-tactical vehicles by 2027, Jacobson said. 

Emergency management organizations and research institutes like FEMA and the Naval Research Laboratory also contributed to the development of the prototype, which utilizes 80% of the power it generates and can simultaneously serve as a communications trailer. Officials said that future iterations of the vehicle may be able to capture and utilize its water and heat byproducts for further utilization. 

Last month, DOE announced it was providing over $40 million in funding for 22 projects across the country aimed at producing, storing and deploying clean hydrogen solutions. The agency also provided nearly $18 million to establish a new research consortium dedicated to implementing grid resilience programs nationwide.