Can the company overcome the engineering hurdles of adapting hydrogen fuel cells for heavy-duty hauling?
Toyota is announcing a feasibility study for a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered semi truck in California. Unfortunately, the company isn’t willing to offer any further information about the project at this time. “Additional details on the study, and the continued evolution of a hydrogen society, will be announced in the coming months,” the green-minded automaker wrote in its announcement.
This new project might use an evolution of the FCEV powertrain that Toyota is building for its hydrogen bus in Japan because this is also a commercial vehicle application for the technology. The 600-liters of hydrogen only provides about 124 miles of range, which couldn’t cut it for long-hauling duty. Plus, the system produces 306 horsepower (228 kilowatts) and 494 pound-feet (670 Newton-meters), which far less than half of the torque of what some semi trucks produce.
However, this existing hydrogen drivetrain would be a place for the development to start. None of these hurdles are impossible to overcome; they merely require smart engineering for finding a solution. We look forward to Toyota releasing more details about the project soon and clarifying what its goals are for making a hydrogen big rig.
Toyota wants to sell at least 100 examples of the hydrogen fuel cell bus at about $1 million each before the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Two of them begin servicing routes there next year.
Making this project somewhat more confusing is that neither Toyota nor its Hino commercial truck division currently offers a Class 8 semi in the United States. The company might need a partner for this development if it is serious about putting a hydrogen-fueled big rig on the road.
Toyota is also working on new fuel cell vehicles for buyers who don’t have a commercial driver’s license. For example, it looks like the next-gen Lexus LS could be available with an optional hydrogen powertrain. Just look at the the LF-FC concept for an idea of what to expect.