Ongoing Death of the Diesel: Toyota Shows Next Gen Zero Emissions Heavy-Duty Fuel-Cell Truck

AutoInformed.com on Fuel Cells and the death of the Diesel

More than 16,000 pollution-emitting trucks are working in Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, a number estimated to increase to 32,000 by 2030.

Toyota put another shovel of dirt on the diesel engine grave by unveiling the second iteration of its hydrogen fuel cell electric Class 8 truck before a crowd of media and industry leaders during the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) Management Briefing Seminars in Northern Michigan.

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. The truck also increases versatility and maneuverability with the addition of a sleeper cab and a unique fuel cabinet combination that further increases cab space without increasing wheelbase.

Since April 2017, the Project Portal “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 vapor. 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.

Increased Range, Improved Process

Project Portal 2.0 builds from the launch of the Alpha. The first heavy-duty truck went from initial concept to a fully-capable drayage truck driving silently out of a Michigan garage in just over a year. This of course caught American Heavy duty truck makers – say Kenworth, Mack and Peterbilt and above all Cummins and Navistar once know as International Harvestor going back to McCormack’s 19th century harvester – napping, to put it politiely.  Toyota Engineers and technicians (with their corporate roots in weaving looms) reconfigured the wire harnesses, electronics and other components of two off-the-lot Mirai fuel cell electric cars to create one of the world’s first OEM-built zero-emission heavy trucks.

The results?

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 1325 pound-feet of torque from two Mirai fuel cell stacks and a 12kWh battery. Project Portal Beta maintains these torque and horsepower numbers while also extending the range of the vehicle and pushing forward on other performance metrics.

“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,” said Andrew Lund, chief engineer for the project. “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.”

Past as Prologue to the Future

Immodestly, Project Portal’s inception and evolution is framed for communications purposes as following a long tradition of Toyota innovation that dates to the company’s entry into the automotive world. The first Toyota (ne’ Toyoda) sedan, the A1, was produced in much the same manner as the original Project Portal truck- through experimentation, and trial and error. Once completed in 1935, the A1 was tested by the company’s founder, Kiichiro Toyoda, and then refined into their first commercially available car, the Toyoda AA.

Real Science, Not a Fake Trump

More than 16,000 pollution-emitting trucks are working in Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, a number that is estimated to increase to 32,000 by 2030. More than 43,000 drayage trucks are in operation at ports across the United States, contributing significant amounts of carcinogens, diesel particulate matter (DPM) and other pollutants into the air of port communities and surrounding neighborhoods.

“Our goal with the first truck was to see if it could be accomplished, and we did that,” claimed senior manager for Toyota’s North American Electrified Vehicle & Technologies Office, Craig Scott. “This time we’re looking at commercial viability globally.”

More Than Trucks?

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 fueling 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.

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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