Back in 2017, which honestly feels like one or two lifetimes ago, Toyota showed off Project Portal -- a fuel cell-powered semi truck it seemed rather serious about. Then, a year later, Project Portal 2.0 showed up and further underscored Toyota's dedication to hydrogen fuel cell technology. Here we are in 2020, and Toyota has officially said it's going to develop a production semi truck that runs on fuel cells.
The Japanese automaker made the announcement on Monday: After all these years of flirting with the possibility of a Class 8 truck, by golly Toyota's going to do it. But it won't do it alone. The automaker said it will work with Hino, a Japanese commercial vehicle manufacturer. Hino will provide the semi chassis, and Toyota will bring its fuel cell powertrain to the party. The final result will be a zero-emissions semi truck with specs to make the vehicle competitive for the North American region. Toyota and Hino already said they'd partner on a truck for Japan, but the two won't be identical.
What kind of specs the production semi will pack isn't clear yet, but Project Portal 2.0 likely gave us a preview. The prototype semi made 670-plus horsepower and 1,325 pound-feet of torque and could handle 80,000 pounds. All the while, the two hydrogen fuel stacks and a 12 kilowatt-hour battery helped the truck go 300 miles. The only byproduct from the powertrain? Water.
Toyota and Hino plan to show off a "demonstration vehicle" in the first half of 2021. And Toyota has a pretty long history in fuel cells. At a time when hydrogen-electric startup Nikola is under fire for a lack of proprietary technology, it's probably not a good feeling for competitors to see Toyota officially toss its hat into the ring.