Toyota Motor Corp. expects to deliver Kentucky-produced heavy-duty fuel cell electric powertrain kits to customers as soon as this year. It adds to momentum that federal and state incentives are driving for hydrogen-powered zero-emission vehicles.

The fuel cell kit qualifies as a zero-emission powertrain, the Japanese automaker said Monday. That means it qualifies for California and federal incentives that can total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The fuel cell modules for hydrogen-powered, Class 8 commercial trucks go into production at Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky, plant later this year. The hydrogen-fueled powertrain kit includes hydrogen fuel storage tanks, fuel cell stacks, batteries, electric motors and transmission.

Fuel cell and hydrogen incentives aplenty

California’s Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP) offers up to $288,000. Certain federal incentives also could be in play. They include a $40,000 per truck incentive under the Inflation Reduction Act.

Global Tier 1 supplier Robert Bosch, Canada-based fuel cell maker Ballard Power Systemns, Singapore spinoff Hyzon Motors, and engine maker and power distribution provider Cummins Inc. all compete in the fuel cell space.

Bosch is providing the fuel cell stacks that financially struggling Nikola is using in its Tre fuel cell electric vehicle. South Korea’s Hyundai Motor is a main competitor. It plans to sell its Xcient fuel cell truck in the U.S. later this year.

Toyota all-in on hydrogen and fuel cells

“Toyota aims to reduce or eliminate emissions for all mobility solutions, and our fuel cell electric powertrains have proven that hydrogen can play a significant role in the  reduction of emissions from heavy-duty transportation,” Scott Friedman, Toyota North America senior program manager for advanced mobility, said in a news release.

More than many automotive companies, Toyota has embraced fuel cells, preferring it over pure battery-electric vehicles which are more efficient but take much longer to charge. In trucking, downtime for any reason is expensive and avoided whenever possible. For long-distance trucking, fuel cells make a lot of sense because the energy efficiency penalty is reduced.

Toyota worked with Paccar Inc.’s Kenworth Truck Co. to demonstrate 10 fuel-cell-equipped trucks in the Port of Los Angeles from 2019 to 2022.

That program has ended but Kenworth is a strong bet to reengage with Toyota on the fuel cell kit. The truckmaker has scheduled a news conference at next week’s Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Anaheim, California.

Toyota has a history with heavy-duty fuel cells

Toyota’s efforts with hydrogen-powered heavy-duty truck powertrains started with Project Portal in 2017. Toyota has developed multiple generations of powertrain prototypes leading to the generation of trucks named “Ocean” that showed the potential for use of hydrogen-powered fuel cell stacks in real-world applications.

The proof-of-concept demonstration was part of the Zero-and-Near-Zero Emission Freight Facilities’ “Shore to Store” Project. Ten Kenworth T680 trucks were retrofitted with two fuel cells each designed for Toyota Mirai passenger cars.

The new-generation powertrain improves energy efficiency and reduces the  package size, Toyota said.

“We believe hydrogen will play a significant role in the emissions reduction of heavy-duty transport while not sacrificing the distance, power, or fueling times needed to keep these fleet and individual operators running,” said Chris Rovik, Toyota North America executive program manager for advanced mobility.

“Fuel cell technology is scalable, and we believe it will take an increasingly visible and important role in our collective fight to reduce and eliminate carbon as we move towards a hydrogen society.”

Related articles:

Is heavy-duty fuel cell trucking almost ready for prime time?

Toyota will build heavy-duty truck fuel cell modules in Kentucky

Toyota and Kenworth will build 18-wheelers powered by fuel cells

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

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