Toyota unveils ‘Beta’ version of hydrogen fuel cell Class 8 truck

The second iteration expands on the capabilities of Toyota's first Project Portal test vehicle by increasing the estimated range to more than 300 miles per fill.

Hydrogen, Fuel cell, Heavy duty, Truck, Toyota, Project Portal

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In 2017, Toyota Motor North America announced its collaboration with the Port of Los Angeles, USA, to explore the feasibility of fuel cell technology for port drayage operations. Over 16,000 pollution-emitting trucks are working in Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, a number that is estimated to double to 32,000 by 2030. More than 43,000 drayage trucks are in operation at ports across the US, contributing significant amounts of carcinogens, diesel particulate matter (DPM) and other pollutants into the air of port communities and surrounding neighbourhoods.

The collaboration resulted in ‘Project Portal’, a hydrogen fuel cell system designed for heavy duty truck use at the Port. A zero-emission truck proof of concept was developed to take part in a feasibility study to examine the potential of fuel cell technology in heavy duty applications.

The first heavy-duty truck, called Project Portal ‘Alpha’ was the result of a skunkworks effort within Toyota that moved from initial concept to a fully-capable drayage truck in just over a year. Engineers and technicians reconfigured the wire harnesses, electronics and other components of two off-the-lot Mirai fuel cell electric cars to create the zero-emission heavy truck.

Since it first began operation in April 2017, the Alpha truck has logged nearly 10,000 miles of testing and real-world drayage operations in and around the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles while emitting nothing but water vapour. With a gross combined weight capacity of 80,000 lbs. and a driving range of more than 200 miles per fill, the 670-plus horsepower Alpha truck produces 1,325 pound-feet of torque from two Mirai fuel cell stacks and a 12kWh battery.

One year later, in 2017, Toyota has unveiled the second iteration of its hydrogen fuel cell electric Class 8 truck. The new truck, known internally as ‘Beta’, expands on the capabilities of Toyota's first Project Portal test vehicle by increasing the estimated range to more than 300 miles per fill.

According to the manufacturer, the truck enhances versatility and manoeuvrability with the addition of a sleeper cab and a unique fuel cabinet combination that further increases cab space without increasing wheelbase. The vehicle maintains the torque and horsepower levels of the Alpha while also extending the range of the vehicle and pushing forward on other key performance metrics.

The Beta vehicle will begin drayage operations in the fall, increasing the Ports' zero emission trucking capacity and further reducing the environmental impact of drayage operations.

Andrew Lund, chief engineer for the project, said: “By evaluating the first truck in our test facilities and on the actual roads in the LA area, we made a list of improvements for the Beta truck build process and performance enhancements. We needed to move beyond a proof of concept, which the first truck accomplished, to something that is not only better than the original but is also more commercially viable.”

This announcement is a continuation of Toyota's Environmental Challenge 2050 efforts to eliminate CO2 emissions from its Toyota Logistics facility at the Port of Long Beach. Toyota has previously announced the construction of the Tri-Gen facility which will be the first megawatt-sized carbonate fuel cell power generation plant with hydrogen fuelling in the world. The 100% renewable plant will use agricultural waste to generate water, electricity, and hydrogen that will support Toyota Logistics Services' (TLS) operations at the Port of Long Beach.

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