It has been close to a year and a half since Toyota started testing its prototype hydrogen fuel-cell trucks in California. After commencing the tests in late 2017, the company has fixated on stepping things up. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the Japanese manufacturer announced that it will be partnering with Kenworth to develop a fleet of 10 fuel cell trucks.
The company stated that the new trucks will be deployed to transport cargo across the Los Angeles basin, including to inland cities like Ontario and San Bernardino. The project is currently funded by a grant to the tune of $41 million from the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
Ahead of this development, Toyota based its prototype Project Portal hydrogen fuel-cell semis on Kenworth’s trucks.
Ahead of this, Toyota based its prototype Project Portal hydrogen fuel-cell semis on Kenworth’s trucks. The first of these began operating in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in October 2017. Post this, the company introduced an updated version in 2018 that was based on Kenworth’s T680.
In the same breath, reports suggest that the 10 new trucks will also be based on the T680. However, Toyota will switch the stock diesel engines with hydrogen fuel-cell stacks that generate electricity to power electric motors. This can be seen as an upsized version of the powertrain that is featured in Toyota’s Mirai sedan. Lithium-ion batteries will provide the back-up power in the semi truck with a range of around 480km.
Toyota will switch the stock diesel engines with hydrogen fuel-cell stacks that generate electricity to power electric motors.
One of the biggest hindrances that have been plaguing the use of hydrogen fuel cells is the lack of fueling stations. However, this might be of little concern for both the companies. Currently, the trucks are being deployed in between ports and warehouses of rail yards known as “drayage” in the trucking industry. These trips are relatively short and run on predictable routes.
Toyota is not the only player with its hat in the ring. US-based Nikola Motors plans on selling fuel-celled semi-trucks in large volumes while Hyundai is planning to deploy 1,000 of its fuel-cell trucks in Switzerland.