Hydrogen fuel cell lorry truck Toyota

Toyota has unveiled its second-generation hydrogen fuel cell truck, known internally as ‘Beta’, at the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) Management Briefing Seminars in Northern Michigan.

‘Beta’ is the second iteration of Toyota’s hydrogen truck programme. It’s a ‘class 8’ vehicle, a US classification that broadly corresponds with what British road users would colloquially call an HGV. It has a payload of over 36 tonnes, a sleeping compartment, and a powerful zero-emission powertrain.

The hydrogen fuel cell, some of which is derived from the Mirai passenger car, drives electric motors as well as the ancillary systems that would usually be powered directly from an internal combustion engine. The combined might of the fuel cell and the 12kWh battery results in 670bhp and 1,325lb ft of torque.

A direct descendant of the initial ‘Project Portal’ fuel cell truck, which has covered 10,000 miles in testing since it launched in 2017, the ‘Beta’ vehicle is Toyota’s second iteration on the concept. Boasting similar performance but a vastly improved range of 300mph, the new lorry is approaching market viability. It also offers several key advantages over existing petrol and diesel technology, the most spectacular being enhanced acceleration.

Testing has so far taken place around California. One crucial real-world application for hydrogen fuel cell trucks is ports such as Long Beach and Los Angeles, where pollution from around 16,000 heavy vehicles has a significant impact. The ‘Beta’ vehicle is expected to begin working in these areas during autumn.

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

Hydrogen fuel cells have significant advantages over plug-in battery-electric technology in haulage applications. Low refuelling time and long range make hydrogen powertrains particularly suited to freight vehicles, which are responsible for significant emissions worldwide.
“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. He continued, “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.”


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