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Toyota to Assembly Fuel Cell Modules in Kentucky Starting in 2023 to Support the Rollout of Hydrogen-Powered Class-8 Trucks

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【Summary】Toyota announced that it will begin assembling fuel cell modules for trucks at its factory in Kentucky starting in 2023 after thousands of miles of real-world testing. The automaker developed a fuel cell kit that can be used to convert diesel powered trucks to run on hydrogen and the modules are a key component.

Eric Walz    Aug 26, 2021 10:15 AM PT
Toyota to Assembly Fuel Cell Modules in Kentucky Starting in 2023 to Support the Rollout of Hydrogen-Powered Class-8 Trucks

While most of the world's automakers are focused on the development of new electric vehicles, Japan's Toyota Motor Co has been working on fuel cell technology for the past twenty years. Now the company is preparing to further expand its portfolio and take its hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric technology from prototypes to mass production.

Toyota announced that it will begin assembling fuel cell modules for trucks at its factory in Kentucky starting in 2023 after thousands of miles of real-world testing. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) will begin assembling integrated dual fuel cell (FC) modules on a dedicated line for its hydrogen-powered, heavy-duty commercial trucks. 

The plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, is the world's largest Toyota manufacturing facility.

Toyota is developing a fuel cell kit that can be used to convert diesel powered trucks to run on hydrogen and the modules are a key component.

The dual fuel cell modules each weigh approximately 1,400 pounds and can deliver up to 160kW of continuous power. The fuel cell conversion kit also includes a high voltage battery, electric motors, transmission and hydrogen storage assembly from top-tier suppliers, Toyota said. 

The fuel cell modules will allow truck manufacturers to incorporate emissions-free fuel cell electric technology into existing diesel-powered truck platforms with the technical support of Toyota.

Toyota has been an industry leader in the development of fuel cell technology. The company has continued its research and development of hydrogen fuel cells while other vehicle manufacturers have abandoned the technology altogether in favor of electric vehicles powered by batteries.

Fuel cell trucks are a bit different from purely electric vehicles. The technology uses a hydrogen-powered fuel cell to generate electricity to charge the truck's battery, which in turn is used to power the truck's electric motors. The only byproduct from converting the hydrogen to usable electricity via a fuel cell is plain water.

"This second-generation fuel cell system is necessary for a carbon neutral future," said David Rosier, Toyota Kentucky powertrain head. "It delivers over 300 miles of range at a full load weight of 80,000 lbs., all while demonstrating exceptional drivability, quiet operation and zero harmful emissions."

Class-8 and other smaller trucks are better suited to use fuel cell technology since they are larger and can store more hydrogen in tanks than a passenger vehicle. The fuel cell technology also offers a zero emissions alternative to highly polluting diesel powered trucks in the shipping industry. The hydrogen tanks can be refilled in about 15 minutes, much less than it takes to charge an electric truck's battery pack.

In addition, hydrogen filling stations, which there are very few of today, can be more easily installed at existing truck stops along highways which are currently dispensing diesel fuel.

"We're bringing our proven electric technology to a whole new class of production vehicles," said Tetsuo Ogawa, president and chief executive officer, Toyota Motor North America. "Heavy-duty truck manufacturers will be able to buy a fully integrated and validated fuel cell electric drive system, allowing them to offer their customers an emissions-free option in the Class 8 heavy-duty segment."

Toyota also said it will offer its powertrain integration expertise to help truck manufacturers more easily adapt emissions-free drivetrain systems to a wide variety of applications in the heavy-duty trucking sector.

In October of last year, Toyota and its truck division Hino USA announced an agreement to jointly develop Class 8 fuel cell electric trucks (FCET) for the North American market. The two companies will combine the newly developed Hino XL Series truck which normally runs on diesel fuel with Toyota's proven zero emissions fuel cell technology. 

Toyota said it will display the fuel cell technology at the 2021 Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo in Long Beach, California on Aug. 31-Sept. 1. 

A prototype fuel cell truck powered by Toyota's kit will also be on display at the show.

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