Toyota Teams Up with Kenworth on Fuel-Cell Big Rigs

10 Kenworth T680 semi trucks will hit the road in SoCal.

Hey, look, Toyota is joining forces with the Kenworth Truck Company to develop, build, and deploy 10 zero-emission big rigs. Say hello to the Kenworth T680, which will be powered by a Toyota hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain.

The plan is for the clean trucks to transport cargo across the greater Los Angeles area while emitting no emissions other than water vapor, the only byproduct of a hydrogen-fueled powertrain. This type of powertrain uses the electrons in hydrogen to create electricity, which in this case is used to power the trucks' electric motors and is stored in a lithium-ion battery pack. "This is not just a science experiment; the goal is to make a difference in society, and to remove pollution and improve the air quality in and around the Port of Los Angeles," said Toyota executive VP Bob Carter in a statement.

The Kenworth T680s are said to have a range of more than 300 miles under normal hauling conditions. The collaboration is part of a $41 million grant, and the program will also fund two new Shell hydrogen fueling stations to support the operation of the rigs.

Toyota first started discussing "Project Portal," a hydrogen fuel-cell system for semi trucks, in 2017, and the Japanese automaker has been bullish on the fuel for years, including launching and selling the looks-challenged Mirai FCEV. However, with the hydrogen refueling infrastructure still in its infancy—Southern California is the only place where anything close to a framework exists—Toyota has more recently pivoted to develop more traditional EV vehicles for consumers. It expects to launch at least 10 such cars and crossovers globally within the next few years.

Trucking and shipping remains a large source of air pollution, meaning electric semis could have an environmental impact even bigger than the trucks themselves, and with Daimler, Tesla, and other makers touting EV rigs, it's clear there are plenty of business opportunities, as well.

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