This story has been amended to more accurately describe the trucks.
Heavy-duty trucks powered by fuel cells are being put to work hauling freight away from the Port of Los Angeles as part of a test by Toyota Motor North America Research and Development and the California Air Resources Board.
“After extensive testing with our proof-of-concept prototypes, we’re ready for the next step of putting more trucks into drayage operations,” said Andrew Lund, chief engineer, Toyota Motor North America Research and Development.
“Moving toward emissions-free trucks is more important than ever, and (this) project has been instrumental in getting us closer to that goal.”
The first two fuel cell-electric Class 8 trucks built under the Zero and Near Zero Emissions Freight Forwarding (ZANZEFF) project, which is sponsored by the state of California, are now ready to join the fleets of vehicles carrying freight away from the busy port, which is the major gateway for goods from Asia flowing in the United States.
The trucks used as part of the ZANZEFF project will be used by Toyota Logistics Services, which handles vehicles imported from Japan, and Southern Counties Express each will receive a Kenworth T680 Class 8 truck powered by a Toyota fuel cell-electric drivetrain. Both zero-emissions trucks will be used at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
These two heavy-duty Kenworth T680 FCEV trucks were developed with $41 million Zero and Near-Zero Emissions Freight Facilities grant from the California Air Resources Board.
Separately, Toyota’s also started testing the next-generation of fuel-cell rigs, equipped with systems adapted specifically for the Kenworth T680 chassis, Toyota noted. They will be used at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
The trucks use the same fuel-cell system found on the 2021 Toyota Mirai sedan revealed earlier this week. The new set up is smaller, but has the same storage capacity as previous systems. This version uses a more powerful lithium-ion battery to “smooth out” the power going to the electric motors. With a full load weight of 80,000 pounds, the truck can travel more than 300 miles, which is typically less than the trucks leaving the ports will travel.
CARB awarded the grant to the Port of Los Angeles for the ZANZEFF project as part of California Climate Investments, an initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment, the Port of Los Angeles.
California’s cap and trade law allows for emissions beyond the authorized limits if companies agree to purchase from or trade for credits from companies that have limited emissions.
“We have been involved with Toyota’s hydrogen truck project since the beginning and we are excited to see the latest models now being released for further testing,” said Gordon Reimer, president, Southern Counties Express, which will test the one of the trucks. “We are proud to be associated with the Toyota research and development team and look forward to the continued progress of this technology.”
Fuel cells, like batteries, create an electricity through a chemical reaction. The principal fuel used in the process, which is emission, is hydrogen. The electricity drives heavy duty electric motors and because their weight and size heavy-duty trucks are considered an ideal use for fuel-cell powertrains.
An additional eight trucks with fuel-cell drivetrains will be delivered in 2021 as part of the ZANZEFF program. Three of the eight trucks will go to United Parcel Service for its port operations while two of the eight trucks will go to Total Transportation Services, another prominent port operator. Toyota Logistics Services will also receive three additional trucks.
One of the issues that limits the growth of hydrogen fuel cell-powered trucks – and other vehicles – is the lack of a refueling infrastructure. Toyota’s working on that as well in California, which offers more hydrogen fueling stations than any other state but needs significantly more, in partnership with the California Energy Commission and Shell Oil’s U.S. operations.
The commission provided a $7.3 million grant to what is now called Shell Hydrogen to build eight of a proposed 51 hydrogen refueling stations. While not providing any additional monies, Toyota – as well as American Honda – pledged to continue its efforts to sell more hydrogen-based vehicles in the state. Toyota is already with other heavy-duty truck companies on hydrogen fuel-cell development, like Hino Trucks.