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Posted August 31 , 2021

 

So far, battery-powered electric vehicles have gained a strong foothold in the market by promoting cleaner personal transportation. Hydrogen vehicles exist, but are usually only available on restricted leases in certain regions. However, battery technology has its limitations, especially for high-load applications such as commercial transportation. It is here that hydrogen may find that niche, and Toyota is betting on it from 2023 when developing a plant to build a fuel cell drivetrain in Kentucky.

The project will include the installation of a dedicated production line for fuel cell modules in Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky. These are planned to be used in heavy-duty truck applications such as semi-trucks developed by Toyota. Subsidiary Hino..

The purpose is to sell integrated fuel cell drive modules that manufacturers can incorporate into their own designs. Tetsuo Ogawa, President and Chief Executive Officer of Toyota Motor North America, said: “Heavy truck manufacturers will be able to purchase fully integrated and validated fuel cell electric drive systems in the Class 8 heavy duty segment.”

{mprestriction ids="1,4,9"}Toyota’s platform provides up to 160 kW of continuous power and weighs at a 1,400-pound stadium. This is much lighter than the battery-powered electrical option for truck applications. The kit is sold as a ready-to-use package that includes a high voltage battery, motor, transmission, and required hydrogen storage system. The aim is to provide a fuel cell drivetrain that can give a Class 8 truck a 300 mile range when fully loaded up to 80,000 pounds.

Hydrogen is a promising fuel for trucks because it avoids many of the problems that have hampered fuel cell vehicles. So far.. Perhaps the biggest factor was the lack of infrastructure. So far, California remains the only state with a significant hydrogen refueling infrastructure. This does not have a significant negative impact on commercial users, as gas stations do not have to be scattered throughout the road network for wider public use and can be installed in depots.

Trucking is also the perfect use for hydrogen for other reasons. Heavy loads tend to narrow the range. That is, electric trucks require huge battery packs to maintain their proper range. This can add weight and limit the payload. The relatively high energy density of hydrogen fuel eliminates this problem. There are also obvious benefits of quick refueling. This is something that electric trucks still can’t handle even the fastest chargers.

Toyota’s move suggests that the company is finding real value in staying on the path to fuel cell development. It may never be popular in the passenger car segment, but it can still be very successful in heavy-duty applications.


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