Toyota to Build Hydrogen Fuel Semi

The Japanese auto giant is expanding its heavy-duty truck initiative to the U.S.

For the typical American commuter interested in emission-free driving, getting around in a battery-electric car — and charging it between trips — tends to be much more convenient than finding a hydrogen fuel station in your neighborhood.

That’s part of the reason that Tesla keeps setting sales records while hydrogen fuel-cell cars remain decidedly on the fringe of the U.S. passenger vehicle market.

In the long-haul trucking segment, however, running an electric semi — despite the best efforts of Tesla and others — still means you have to stop to charge the battery, at best, every few hundred miles. That could present an opportunity for companies still bullish on hydrogen as a viable way to cut carbon emissions from the world’s highways — such as Toyota.

The auto giant this week announced an agreement with fellow Japanese company Hino to produce a Class 8 fuel cell electric truck for the U.S. market.

The truck will combine Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell capabilities with Hino’s new XL Series chassis, which boasts up to 360 horsepower and up to 1,150 foot-pounds of torque. Company officials said the forthcoming vehicle would be quiet, smooth, powerful, and, critically, emit nothing but water.

Toyota and Hino first teamed up on a 25-ton fuel cell electric truck for the Japanese market earlier this year; the first demonstration vehicle from that project is expected in the first half of 2021.

Toyota, of course, is not the first company to attempt to bring hydrogen-electric trucks to the nation’s roadways, but the most high-profile prospect — Nikola — just saw its founder depart amid a slew of fraud allegations.

A report issued in December found that trucks and buses accounted for 28% of the transportation sector’s carbon emissions, despite comprising just 10% of all vehicles on the road.

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