Toyota Is Still Very Serious About Fuel-Cell Electric

Toyota Is Still Very Serious About Fuel-Cell Electric

Toyota announced Tuesday that it would be making a Class 8 truck powered by fuel cells and electricity. That is Class 8 as in tractor-trailer sized. It is also intended for the American market.

Toyota is teaming up with the Japanese truck maker Hino to do it. Toyota’s press release is light on details, but it’s interesting how Toyota keeps making significant moves on fuel cell tech, at a time when most automakers are going nearly all-in on battery electric.

With the rapidly expanding interest in heavy-duty electric trucks, Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) and Hino Trucks have agreed to jointly develop a Class 8 fuel cell electric truck (FCET) for the North American market.

The companies will leverage the newly developed Hino XL Series chassis with Toyota’s proven fuel cell technology to deliver exceptional capability without harmful emissions. This collaboration expands upon the existing effort to develop a 23 T FCET for the Japanese market which was announced earlier this year. The initial demonstration vehicle is expected to arrive in the first half of 2021.

The first half of 2021 is arriving quicker than you think (it’s already October). And while that’s only for a demonstration vehicle, Toyota and Hino can measure themselves up against the Tesla Semi for how quickly their timeline moves. We got our first full look at the Tesla Semi in November 2017, which is almost three years ago now, and we’re seemingly no closer to a production version. If 2024 comes and goes and there’s still no Toyota fuel cell truck on the streets you could say that Toyota and Hino moved as fast as Tesla, but no faster.

And while the Toyota and Hino truck and the Tesla Semi would, in theory, compete, they really are quite different propositions, since refuelling a fuel cell electric vehicle is significantly quicker than recharging batteries. Which is, of course, the best argument for fuel cell electric — its scalability — and which is the business case for this new truck as well. Maybe ten years from now we’ll begin to have an idea which tech will win.