Toyota's hydrogen-powered trucks to start hauling cargo around LA
Can hydrogen power form part of a cleaner trucking future? Toyota is exploring the possibilities with a set of heavy haulers reconfigured to run on hydrogen fuel cells. The venture, dubbed "Project Portal," is now moving into its next phase, with the company to begin a pilot project that will see the zero-emission vehicles lugging goods around ports in Los Angeles later this month.
Revealed by Toyota earlier this year, Project Portal involves running trucks on the same hydrogen fuel cells that power its Mirai hydrogen car. With two fuel stacks and a 12-kWh battery onboard, the truck generates 670 hp (500 kW) and 1,325 lb-ft (1,800 Nm) of torque, with an estimated range of 200 mi (321 km) and a weight capacity of 80,000 lb (36,000 kg).
With thousands of development miles under its belt, Toyota says the trucks are now ready to be put to the test under real-world conditions. This means carrying cargo from port terminals in Los Angeles and Long Beach to nearby rail yards and warehouses, with the routes designed specifically to test the cycling capabilities of the fuel cell system. The trucks are expected to cover around 200 mi (321 km) per day, with longer routes to be introduced further down the track.
"Toyota has led the way in expanding the understanding and adoption of fuel cell technology," says Toyota Motor North America Executive Vice President Bob Carter. "From the introduction of the Mirai passenger vehicle to the creation of the heavy-duty fuel cell system in Project Portal, Toyota continues to demonstrate the versatility and scalability of the zero-emission fuel cell powertrain."
The pilot kicks off on October 23.
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Further, the overall hydrogen fuel cycle is very inefficient, fuel cells themselves top out at around 60% efficiency, but then there's the energy required to create the hydrogen, compress it to extreme pressures multiple times (you have to recompress it each time it is transferred from one tank to another), plus it has to be cooled with each compression cycle, etc. There are just so many points of energy loss that the overall hydrogen fuel cell cycle is not much more efficient than using internal combustion engines. Add to that high leakage losses (hydrogen is a small molecule that gets out of everywhere easily, it even migrates through metals) and the overall efficiency is even worse.
In short, hydrogen systems for transport make no sense, you don't gain anything, but they are expensive, complex and high maintenance. Compared to batteries they are a bad joke, which is why most vehicle manufacturers have dropped them altogether. Toyota is clinging on to them as they have foolishly invested so much money in them due to poor decision making.
Fuel cells are not better than batteries, they are not even close to the same efficiency as a battery EV, and because of the physical limitations of hydrogen storage etc, they never will be.