Inside the Arrington Performance Hydrogen Fueled TREMEC TKX 5-Speed Equipped 1948 Chevrolet Truck

As third-pedal enthusiasts are bombarded with talk of electric cars, autonomously driving cars and eliminating gasoline and diesel engines, the future can seem bleak. But as we showed with our recent blog on the Jeep Magneto 2.0 Electric Wrangler the move to alternative propulsion for vehicles doesn’t mean the end of shifting your own gears. And here’s another example that doesn’t run on gasoline or diesel but does have a TREMEC TKX 5-speed transmission – this one makes its horsepower by burning hydrogen.

ABOVE: The 1948 Chevy 3100 truck was built with an Total Cost Involved (TCI) chassis and all the other typical upgrades you’ll see on a high-end restomod. If it weren’t for the big hint visible in the bed, you would never know this truck runs on hydrogen instead of gasoline.

Mike Copeland and his team at Arrington Performance enjoy building vehicles that involve thinking outside of the box. Mike has been at this for a while, formerly being the brains behind building some of Chevrolet Performance’s most notable and unique custom vehicles like the Reggie Jackson Camaro and the revamp of the Project X 1957 Chevy. Believing there was still life left in the internal combustion engine (ICE), Arrington Performance set out to build a 1948 Chevrolet 3100 truck powered by hydrogen. No, not a hydrogen fuel cell generating power but an ICE running on gaseous hydrogen.

ABOVE: The supercharged GM LS3 V8 engine was built in the same manner as a high-performance gasoline-powered engine. And it could easily be switched back to running on gasoline. On gas the engine would run at a 14.7:1 air/fuel ratio, while on hydrogen it runs a 75:1 ratio. And that’s with 9.3 pounds of boost supplied by the Magnuson supercharger resulting in 400 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque on the dyno. Once bigger injectors are available, the boost can be turned up and the engine will have a much higher power potential. Mike Copeland of Arrington Performance says that his goal is to have it making about 600 horsepower.

Mike explains that hydrogen is one of the most viable alternative fuel sources not just because it is plentiful, but also because of the ease of which it can be adapted to current internal combustion engine design. This simplifies conversion and reduces costs compared to other alternative propulsion systems. An interesting part of the V8 running on hydrogen is that there is no carbon burn and no carbon waste to pollute the engine’s oil as with a gasoline- or diesel-powered engine.

The engine’s temperature can even be modulated somewhat via changing the air/fuel mixture, but in normal operation the LS3 operates at 180-degrees F. The only tailpipe emission is water vapor, so the hydrogen fuel engine doesn’t require any sort of emissions system.

ABOVE: This is one of the nicest interiors you’ll ever see in a development vehicle. A TREMEC TKX 5-speed transmission was chosen for the project because it simplified the development process – the transmission doesn’t require any sort of calibration along with the engine. The TREMEC TKX fits the factory tunnel without body modifications.

The engine’s ECU along with its injectors and other fuel system components come from Bosch, who Arrington Performance has partnered with to develop the system with an eye towards offering an aftermarket hydrogen fuel conversion package that can be used to keep fossil-fueled classic cars and trucks on the road if/when gasoline and diesel fuel are phased out. The Bosch ECU is plugged into an Arrington-built wiring harness, and it provides the programming and tuning flexibility necessary for the alternative fuel system to function.

Behind the hydrogen-fueled LS3 is an American Powertrain supplied TREMEC TKX 5-speed transmission supplied by American Powertrain. It uses a McCleod single disc clutch. The slimmer profile of the TKX allows for it to fit the truck’s stock transmission tunnel without modifications.

ABOVE: This is the only external clue that this truck runs on hydrogen. The hydrogen is stored in gaseous form. It takes 3-5 minutes to refill the tank at hydrogen refueling station, with the truck’s range being 3.5 hours of driving time, which varies depending on how heavy the driver’s foot is just like with a gasoline-powered vehicle.

“If you didn’t know the engine as running on hydrogen, you would never be able to tell,” explains Mike. “It sounds and acts just like a gasoline engine, with no detrimental effect on the driving experience. The TREMEC TKX 5-speed and being able to shift gears manually only adds to the fun of driving the truck.”

Mike’s future plans call for racing the truck in the 2022 Optima Challenge once higher capacity injectors are available, allowing Mike to pursue his goal of making 600 horsepower with the engine.

ABOVE: Hydrogen is a great alternative because it can be adapted to current engine technology easily, leading to much lower development and production costs versus a full EV vehicle. As part of the program to prove the hydrogen conversions capability, and thanks to its Art Morrison chassis, Mike plans to enter the truck in the 2022 Optima Challenge competition to show off its full capability.

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