CES 2019: Toyota/Kenworth Team to Build 10 Fuel Cell Trucks

January 09, 2019 by Alan Adler, @AlanAdler

The first of 10 hydrogen-powered fuel cell heavy-duty Kenworth trucks to haul freight to and from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is being assembled at Toyota Motor Corp.’s research center in Michigan, the companies said Tuesday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Toyota and Paccar Inc.’s Kenworth brand are among several partners, including Shell Oil Co., participating in a $41 million grant program from the California Air Resources Board. The ARB has a goal of zero emissions by 2035 for the 16,000 drayage trucks that move in and out of the port complex – the nation’s largest – daily.

“If we could change these 16,000 trucks into zero-emission vehicles, we could do a lot of good for the communities along the I-710 corridor,” said Andrew Lund, chief engineer for product development for Toyota. The freeway leads north from the ports toward Los Angeles and is heavily traveled by trucks and other vehicles.

Diesel-powered drayage trucks waiting to pick up cargo spend long hours idling and emitting smog.

Hydrogen gas- and air-driven

The Kenworth T680s with the Toyota hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrains combine hydrogen gas and air to produce electricity for the electric motors that move the trucks. They also charge a 12-volt lithium-ion battery that powers air conditioning and other cab functions. The fuel cell emits only water vapor.

The driving range is about 300 miles based on 60 kilograms (132 pounds) of hydrogen, the companies said.

The 10 Kenworth T680 day cab trucks will be used in the ports for three months at a time over the next two years. They will join several other companies’ non-polluting, heavy-duty truck powertrains being tested.

Before collaborating with Kenworth, Toyota harvested the fuel cell systems from two Toyota Murai sedans to develop a heavy-duty fuel cell truck in its secret Portal Project from February 2016 to January 2017.

Scaling up

“The biggest learning was that our fuel cell can be scaled from a passenger car all the way to a heavy-duty truck,” Takehito Yokoo, Toyota senior executive engineer for advanced fuel cell, who led development of the “Alpha” truck, told Trucks.com.

The Alpha truck has amassed 12,000 miles in port operations in the Los Angeles basin over the last year, he said.

It has received good reviews from drivers.

“One of the things we have heard from drivers is they felt less fatigue than driving a diesel truck, and they go home less cranky,” Lund said.

‘Beta’ truck

Toyota’s “Beta” truck was revealed in Michigan in August 2018. It was created from a Kenworth T660 with the engine and under-hood components replaced by power electronics and electrified brake and steering systems and a unique cooling system, said Chris Rovik, Toyota executive program manager for advanced fuel cells and lead engineer on the Beta truck.

Kenworth, which partnered with Ballard Power to create a fuel cell truck, contributed the air brake compressor to the Beta truck. It will build the other nine fuel cell trucks at its assembly plant in Renton, Wash.

“We believe carrying energy in the form of hydrogen makes more sense than batteries for long-haul uses,” said Brian Lindgren, Kenworth director of research and development. “Fully loaded, these are thousands of pounds lighter than battery-powered trucks.”

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