Toyota Motor North America says it will begin in 2023 to manufacture large "integrated dual fuel cell modules" that will be used to power Class 8 semitractors from a new manufacturing line at its giant light-vehicle assembly plant in Georgetown, Ky. — the same plant that builds the Toyota Camry and the Lexus ES 350.
The fuel cell modules are "designed to fit in essentially the same space" as a similar heavy-duty diesel engine in Class 8 semis, a company spokesman said. The 1,400-pound modules would have the ability to tow roughly 40 tons of cargo up to 300 miles "all while demonstrating exceptional drivability, quiet operation and zero harmful emissions," David Rosier, Toyota Kentucky powertrain head, said in a statement.
Toyota did not disclose if it yet has a truck manufacturing customer to purchase the fuel cell modules, but said in a statement that the modules "bring Toyota's electrification strategy further into focus as it will allow truck manufacturers to incorporate emissions-free fuel cell electric technology into existing platforms with the technical support of Toyota under the hood."
Toyota has been experimenting for decades with hydrogen fuel cells, including introducing the Mirai hydrogen-powered sedan in 2014. It's also been operating a test fleet of hydrogen-powered trucks at the Port of Long Beach in California. While hydrogen fuel cells produce zero emissions in their use, emissions are created as hydrogen is made into a fuel.
"We're bringing our proven electric technology to a whole new class of production vehicles," Ted Ogawa, CEO of Toyota Motor North America, said in the statement. "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 declined to disclose whether the new manufacturing line would have any impact on employment at the Georgetown plant, or whether any new investment would be involved. The plant recently lost one of its products when Toyota announced that it would end production of the Avalon sedan after the 2022 model year.
The Japanese automaker said it will display the fuel cell modules at the 2021 Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo in Long Beach next week. The display will also include a prototype truck powered by the Toyota Fuel Cell kit.