Move Shows Company Dipping a Toe in New Market
Toyota is synonymous with hybrids in the U.S., but the company has made it clear it has other ambitions in the green car arena. It’s brought the Mirai fuel cell sedan to market and is leading all players in hydrogen-powered car sales. But Toyota didn’t get to be one of the largest automotive companies in the world by thinking small. So, a fuel cell-powered Class 8 truck should only be slightly surprising.
Toyota first showed the fuel cell truck early in 2017 at a trade show. At the time it appeared to be a publicity stunt showing the capability of Mirai fuel cell stacks. In the truck, two Mirai stacks produce 670 horsepower and a critical 1,325 pounds-feet of torque. That torque is what makes what Toyota calls the Portal Project to haul an 80,000-pound load, the ticket of entry for regular work in the ports.
Fuel Cell Goes Into Service
Toyota revealed this week that the heavy-duty truck is now going into service later this month (October 2017) in and around the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The company also noted that they have put in 4,000 miles of development for the prototype truck. What is clear from that number is the company is serious about moving this truck (or some version of it) towards production.
“Toyota has led the way in expanding the understanding and adoption of fuel cell technology,” said Toyota Motors North America Executive Vice President Bob Carter. “From the introduction of the Mirai passenger vehicle to the creation of the heavy-duty fuel cell system in Project Portal, Toyota continues to demonstrate the versatility and scalability of the zero-emission fuel cell powertrain.”
In its work configuration the Portal Project is supposed to be capable of 200 miles of range (in part thanks to a 12 kWh battery backing up the fuel cell). Toyota aims to test how this works in the real world, in what it terms a “demanding cycle.” It hopes to be able to extend that range with longer routes later in the test.
The Toyota truck is clearly a prototype (just look under the hood), but the intent of Toyota may be clearer than many realize. Toyota’s truck subsidiary, Hino Motors, announced late last month that it was investing in a new plant in West Virginia to begin to produce Class 7 and 8 trucks, a new segment for Hino in the U.S. Hino has been the leader in hybrid truck technology; could they be ready to transition to fuel cells?
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