Toyota delivered a zero-emissions 670-horsepower truck to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on Wednesday that could ultimately reverse the region’s high cancer-causing pollution levels.
If the hydrogen-powered big rig performs well during a summer-long pilot test dubbed “Project Portal,” the new heavy-duty carrier could be the model to replace thousands of diesel trucks that pass to and from the twin ports daily.
“We’re honored to be Toyota’s test lab,” said Tony Gioiello, deputy executive director at the Port of Los Angeles. “Ultimately, our hope is in the coming years Toyota demonstrates the viability of this technology and helps us make the zero-emissions truck viable in the marketplace here at the nation’s largest port complex.”
RACING TO ZERO
Vehicles propelled by hydrogen don’t have the drawback of cumbersome batteries or molasses-slow charging sessions like all-electric cars.
The new truck’s electric motor is powered by hydrogen fuel cells that emit only water vapor and can travel up to 200 miles on one 20-minute charge.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced this week the company, which is based in Palo Alto and has a Hawthorne design studio, will debut a competitive, all-electric semi-trailer truck in September.
But Tesla officials declined to share details about the much-anticipated vehicle, or how it will overcome range limitations. For example, the smaller VIA Motors’ all-electric pickup only has a range of 40 miles per charge.
Toyota officials have been studying hydrogen-powered vehicle technology for 26 years and believe it is superior to all-electric models.
In 2014, the company launched its first hydrogen fuel-cell car, the Mirai. Torrance-based American Honda Motor Co. now has a competing hydrogen-powered car, the Clarity. But several manufacturers are pursuing the technology.
MORE PHOTOS: A closer look at the new hydrogen-powered trucks
“I think it can potentially change the entire commercial industry,” said Bob Carter, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Sales based in Torrance. “This is on our journey to creating what we’ve been calling a broader hydrogen society. We believe this is going to have a distinct advantage” over electric vehicles.
“The concept is the same. The difference is that the fuel cells develop the electricity on board, as needed. You don’t have to have heavy, large, expensive batteries that take days to successfully recharge (a truck).”
Carter could not say how much a hydrogen-powered big rig would cost, but did predict it would be competitive with a new gasoline-powered truck if and when it hits the market.
HYDROGEN FUELING NETWORK
The shiny new truck is easy to distinguish for two reasons. It’s completely silent when running, and carries the slogan on its trailer: “A zero-emissions world: powered by Toyota hydrogen fuel cell technology.”
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