Toyota Project Portal imagines a fuel cell-powered semi truck future

Tesla may have garnered buzz surrounding the announcement it will reveal a semi truck in September, but Toyota this week showed how it imagines revolutionizing the trucking industry.

This hunk of tractor trailer metal is called Project Portal, and it’s powered exclusively by a hydrogen fuel cell system.

The semi truck produces zero emissions and its only byproduct is water, like other fuel cell vehicles. Project Portal is a collaboration between Toyota and the Port of Los Angeles, a hotbed for heavy freight and trucking.

Powering the 80,000-pound semi truck are two Toyota Mirai fuel cell stacks delivering 670 horsepower and 1,325 pound-feet of torque. There is also a 12-kilowatt-hour battery, which as the Japanese automaker correctly points out is “relatively small” for a vehicle of this size. Project Portal is only capable of going 200 miles before needing to fill up on hydrogen, making it suited for deliveries around town only at present.

At its reveal, Toyota was joined by the California Air Resources Board and the California Energy Commission to announce the semi truck will undergo a feasibility study to look at the potential for fuel cell technology in the trucking industry. It would make a hefty contribution to Port’s Clean Air Action Plan, which has dramatically reduced harmful emissions in the Long Beach area since 2005.

Hydrogen fueling station infrastructure is anything but ready to tackle the average American driver’s needs, but it may be less of an issue for vehicles like semi trucks, which haul freight across the country and stick to clusters of designated routes. To help inch the process along, Toyota has already committed to partnering with Shell in an effort to expand hydrogen filling stations across the state of California.

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