Toyota Motors (NYSE: TMC) is testing a semi-tractor; also called a heavy truck, powered by a hydrogen-electric fuel cell.
Toyota claims the first zero-emissions truck has logged 10,000 miles in freight service at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. That truck, the Alpha was so-successful, that a second vehicle called the Beta is going into service, a press claims.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles use a chemical reaction to produce electricity. Therefore, there is no emission because it burns no fuel. Instead, the reaction produces water vapour.
Toyota claims the Alpha produces 1,325 feet of torque with a 670 plus horsepower engine. Notably, the vehicle features a battery that will store 12 kilowatt hours (KHW) of electricity. Toyota achieved that power by combining fuel stacks from two of its Mirai fuel cell powered sedans.
Toyota is Serious about Hydrogen Fuel cells
The truck effort called Project Portal is part of Toyota’s Environmental Challenge 2050 to produce emission-free vehicles. Unlike most of its competitors, Toyota is experimenting with both hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and battery powered electrics.
Even though they are non-polluting; hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are a tough sale, because they require a whole new fuelling infrastructure. The big advantage to battery electrics is that electricity is available everywhere.
Cost might derail fuel cell vehicles, Empresa Journal reports hydrogen fuel costs more than gasoline. Interestingly, some Toyota dealers in California have Mirai sedans available to the public. Obviously, even the most expensive electricity is far cheaper than gasoline or diesel fuel.
Diesel Bans increase value of Fuel-Cell Vehicle Technology
However, hydrogen-fuel cell vehicles are potentially lucrative because many nations and cities are banning diesel.
For example, Her Majesty’s Government wants to ban diesel and petrol vehicles in the United Kingdom by 2040. Moreover, the French government plans to end the sale of all internal combustion vehicles by 2040, The New York Times reports.
Diesel bans like those in France, Germany, China, the UK, California, and Mexico City are driven by concerns about air quality. That will increase the market for fuel cell vehicles because they are theoretically emission free.
Toyota Hedges its bets on Electrics
Despite its concentration on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles Toyota is hedging its bets with electrics. Toyota is developing a number of electric models including “ultra-compacts” for city driving and the weird three wheeler known as the i-Road.
Moreover, Toyota is planning to bring out 10 vehicles with electric motors. Those vehicles can run on batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, or as plug in hybrids. Notably, Toyota is speeding up its manufacture of battery electric vehicles in China.
Like other automakers, Toyota is trying to please China’s government which wants to phase out gasoline and diesel cars by around 2030. Although Toyota, is slowly rolling out electrics in other markets; including Europe, India, and the United States.
Is Volkswagen winning the Electric Vehicle Race?
Even with these plans Toyota is far behind its German rival Volkswagen AG (OTC: VLKAY). For example, Volkswagen plans to spend $82.5 billion (€70 billion) on electrification, Fortune notes.
In particular, Volkswagen reportedly has 80 electric models on the drawing board. Additionally, Volkswagen subsidiary is building 500 charging stations for electric vehicles across the United States, The Verge reports.
Beyond that, Volkwagen’s Scania division is investing €10 ($12.5 billion) in a company called Northvolt. To explain, Northvolt plans to build gigantic battery-factory and lab at Västerås, Sweden, Elektrek reports.
Toyota also reportedly has plans to commercialize solid state batteries as an alternative to lithium batteries by 2020, Electrek claims. Therefore, Toyota is serious about zero-emission vehicles. However, the company’s management is unsure which emission-free technology is the future, just like the rest of us.