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Supply Chain News: Toyota Ready for Second Real Test of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Trucks at Ports of LA and Long Beach


Beta Version of Truck Increases Range to 300 Miles on Single Hydrogen Charge

Aug. 8, 2018
SCDigest Editorial Staff

There are several alternatives for alternative fuel trucks, prominently including natural gas and electric.

The bloom seems to have come off the rose of natural gas trucks a bit, with sales in the freight market falling well below expectations of a few years ago. The reasons are many, and include for a long while low diesel prices (though that is changing of late), the much higher costs of nat gas tractors versus traditional diesel, and carriers worried they will lose the potential savings from natural gas to reduced fuel surcharge payments by shippers.

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"Our goal with the first truck was to see if it could be accomplished, and we did that," a Toyota executive noted."This time we're looking at commercial viability."

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Electric trucks have some momentum, and Tesla certainly made some noise in 2017 with its release of the concept of its first electric truck models, with impressive promised performance. But other truck makers questioned Tesla's promises for range and charge times when the first models are somewhat tenuously scheduled for release sometime in 2019.

Truck manufacturing giant Daimler, for example, threw a little shade at rival Tesla's announced plans for bringing electric semis to market, saying 2021 was a lot more realistic timeline than the 2019 schedule Tesla has promised. "The laws of physics still apply," Daimler said in February, in terms of the delivery range of electric powered big rigs.

Some believe it may take many years for electric glass 8 trucks to make a big dent in the market, though progress in smaller class freight trucks seems likely.

Which leaves hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles. The fuel cells produce only water in terms of emissions, and charge a battery that powers the truck.

In fact, the founder of fuel cell truck developer Nikola Motor Company started out planning to build all electric trucks, but switched to hydrogen amidst concerns about performance ceilings with electric models.

This week, Toyota unveiled the latest version of its Project Portal hydrogen fuel cell electric Class 8 truck, which it said boasts greater range and improvements to versatility and maneuverability. The truck was shown during a media briefing on July 30 at a Center for Automotive Research meeting in Traverse City. Michigan, according to a report from the Heavy Duty Trucking web site.

Toyota calls this a beta iteration of Project Portal that expands on the original alpha version of its fuel cell truck by increasing range from 200 to 300 miles on a single hydrogen charge, adding on a sleeper cab, and engineering a unique "fuel cabinet combination" that increases cab space without increasing wheelbase.

The power numbers remain the same, with an output of over 670 horsepower and 1,325 lbs.-ft. of torque from the engine. (See Will Hydrogen Fuel Cell Trucks be the Answer in the End?)

(See More Below)



The Project Portal alpha vehicle has been operating at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles in Southern California since April 2017, so far logging 10,000 miles of testing and real-world drayage operations.

The improved beta version of the Toyota trucks will begin testing at the same ports in the fall.

After learning from the alpha tests, "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," said Andrew Lund, chief engineer for the project.

"We want to help make a difference, a significant difference when it comes to the air quality not only in the LA area but across the U.S. and around the globe," added Craig Scott senior manager for Toyota's North American electrified vehicle & technologies office.

"Our goal with the first truck was to see if it could be accomplished, and we did that," Scott added."This time we're looking at commercial viability."

o you think hydrogen fuel cell trucks will largely win the Classs 8 battle in the end? Why or why note? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.


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