7 juil 23

Toyota fires up truck fleets in California with hydrogen

Toyota is taking major steps in producing EVs, but the Japanese manufacturer has also just completed a major project in the U.S. involving hydrogen-powered trucks. 

Worldwide, transportation produces 15% of greenhouse gas emissions. Hence the importance and the urgency for fleets everywhere to switch to carbon-free mobility. Toyota still sees a long-term future for internal combustion engines (ICEs), but also focuses on innovation, particularly with regard to hydrogen. In that respect, the giant OEM has developed two strategies, one for passenger cars, the other for heavy-duty vehicles - the latter recently unveiled at the Port of Los Angeles. 

The H2 + ICE engine concept

  • For over five years, Toyota and Yamaha Motor Company have been developing an ICE engine powered by hydrogen. In November 2021, they unveiled a 5.0-litre V8 engine based on the Lexus RCF Coupe. 
  • In that same year,  Toyota unveiled an H2 ICE prototype, a modification of the GR Yaris H2 concept, including a turbocharged 1.8-litre three-cylinder engine. The GR Yaris H2's European debut was the Ypres Rally in Belgium in August 2022. 
  • Toyota's next step in hydrogen combustion technology was the G2 Corolla Sport H2, continuing the testing process. 
  • Since last year, Yamaha has been working on a 5.0-litre V8 engine powered by H2
Toyota GR Yaris H2, courtesy of Toyota.

Toyota and Yamaha's combined strategy is to achieve sustainability through H2 ICE engines, therefore sticking to Toyota's plan of providing consumers witha wide range of alternatives to 'classic' ICE models. 

The Japanese government is welcoming these H2 projects with open arms, and hopes to have 200,000 fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) on the roads by 2025 and 800,000 by 2030. Toyota aims to increase Japan's current number of hydrogen refilling stations from 160 to 900 by the same year. 

G2 Corolla Sport H2 engine, courtesy of Toyota.

Replacing diesel with H2 for truck fleets

In May 2017, Toyota announced Project Portal, which aimed to convert heavy-duty trucks at the Port of Los Angeles to hydrogen fuel. In the beginning, Project Portal was designed to provide 670 hp from two Toyota Mirai fuel cell stacks and a 12kW/h battery. 

The H2 fuel cell system took a significant step forward in April 2019, when the California Air Resources Board (CARB) awarded $41 million to the Port of Los Angeles' zero-emission goal, supporting Toyota and Kenworth Truck Company, a manufacturer of heavy and medium duty trucks. This made it possible to develop 10 hydrogen fuel-cell electric Class 8 trucks on the Kenworth T680 platform. Shell supported the project by installing two large-capacity heavy-duty H2 fueling stations. 

Following the success of 'Ocean', the Toyota-Kenworth T680 FCEV truck, Toyota announced plans to produce H2 fuel-cell modules in the U.S. from August 2021. The highly innovative solution introduced fuel-cell stacks in a modular form, coming along with a kit to replace the diesel engines in heavy-duty trucks. The kit includes: 

  • Fuel-cell modules weighing around 1,400 lbs (635 kg)
  • A high-voltage battery
  • A transmission
  • Electric motors
  • Hydrogen storage tanks

This H2-based kit can provide continuous energy of around 160 kW. Kenworth designed and manufactured the T680 FCEV trucks, while Toyota designed and produced the hydrogen-based fuel-cell electric system. As a result, Ocean has a range of over 300 miles (480 km) with a full load of around 82,000 lb (36,000 kg). Thanks to super-fast hydrogen filling, the huge trucks are refueled in just 15 to 20 minutes, enabling them to take on multiple daily shifts exceeding 500 miles. According to Toyota, Ocean trucks reduce carbon emissions by more than 74.5 metric tons per truck per year. 

Toyota-Kenworth H2 fuel-cell kit, courtesy of Toyota.

Customisable trucks for H2 power 

Toyota chose the Port of Los Angeles for this joint project because it comprises 3% of all vehicles in California, and is responsible for around 23% of California's overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

CARB approved Toyota's hydrogen fuel-cell kit for heavy-duty trucks in April 2023, enabling all owners of Class-8 vehicles to replace their diesel engines with the zero-emission hydrogen-powered kit. Having received the green light, Toyota will start manufacturing the fuel cell kits in Kentucky this year, initiating an era of integrative engines as a bright example of new energy innovation. Thus, Class-8 vehicle fleets can upgrade their trucks without purchasing new ones, providing a significant financial advantage. 

Ocean trucks paved the way for a new era in logistics in California, ready to spread to other parts of the world. Thanks to the much easier charging infrastructure installment for heavy-duty truck fleets, the H2 fuel-cell tech penetration won't be as hectic as for new energy passenger cars. 

The main image shows the ten Ocean hydrogen powered heavy-duty trucks, courtesy of Toyota.

Authored by: Mufit Yilmaz Gokmen