In response to the Army's needs, GM built a diesel hybrid Chevy Crew Cab to showcase its latest hybrid and fuel cell technology. The truck is powered by a 6.6L Duramax diesel and electric motors that can increase fuel mileage by 20 percent and also work as a generator, producing 30kw of electricity. The truck carries a fuel cell generator in the bed that can run when the engine is off to produce power more quietly than a gasoline or diesel generator while also reducing the heat signature so it's harder to detect with infrared optics.

Another interesting hybrid vehicle being tested by the military is the Shadow RST-V. The acronym stands for reconnaissance, surveillance, and targeting vehicle, and the U.S. Marines have been testing it for several years. The idea is to use the Shadow in some of the roles that have been previously filled by Humvees.

Powering the Shadow is a 2.5L turbocharged Detroit Diesel direct-injection inline four cylinder making 138hp. The engine is paired with a lithium ion battery to power four 50kw motors, one mounted on each hub. The diesel-electric hybrid system in the Shadow serves several purposes; it cuts fuel consumption by more than half when compared to a Humvee in the same role and it allows the Shadow to run in stealth mode. That's right, stealth. Ok, so it's not invisible, but the Shadow can run for more than 20 miles on electric power alone, allowing it to be quiet and also reduce its heat signature. Like the hybrid trucks, the Shadow can also use its engine to generate electric power, reducing the need to tow heavy, noisy generators.

The same capabilities that attracted the military's attention will likely make civilian diesel hybrids attractive to consumers. It will probably take years of ownership to offset the price premium that comes with the additional hybrid technology, and OEMs realize that few truck buyers are likely to pay the extra dough just for reduced emissions, so hybrids must offer other advantages. The biggest marketing strategy has been touting the hybrids as mobile generators. The idea of an onboard generator isn't just appealing to contractors but could be the ultimate tailgating accessory. Off-roaders could take along a welder on their trail ride, so selling that convenience will become a big part of making hybrid trucks appealing.

While the first consumer truck application of diesel hybrid power will almost certainly come from GM, Ford, or DaimlerChrysler, just imagine a civilian version of the Shadow tearing up logging roads and blasting through the desert. Don't laugh, four-wheel independent suspension on an off-road vehicle was a joke before the Humvee proved itself, so hopefully this military technology-in an affordable package-will trickle down to the civilian market