Some trucking tech companies such as Tesla and Nikola want to bring electricity to the trucking industry as a viable fuel source, but what happens after that? Generating electricity can still be environmentally damaging, and can take hours to fully charge a heavy truck. Hino and Toyota are thinking one step ahead by trying to focus on developing hydrogen fuel cell trucks, where refueling is fast and waste emissions are borderline non-existent.
Toyota is the majority owner of Hino, owning 50.1% of all shares in the company. In a way, Toyota is doing a partnership with itself. This subsidiary-owner relationship allows them to cooperate more easily than if Toyota did not have majority ownership in Hino, and going through Hino saves Toyota the effort of creating a line of heavy-duty trucks from the drawing board.
“Expanding upon our proud heritage of the Hino powertrain, Toyota Fuel Cell Technology offers our customers a commercially viable, extended-range, zero-emissions vehicle in the near term,” said Glenn Ellis, Hino’s senior vice president of customer experience. “Hino shares a common focus with Toyota when it comes to durability, reliability and innovation with the customer at the center of design, which makes this collaboration a game changer.”
The truck that will be coming to North America by way of the Pacific Ocean will be the Hino FCET. There is currently no confirmation as to what the acronym means, but we predict it will be something along the lines of “Fuel-Cell Energy Truck”.
Tak Yokoo, senior executive engineer for Toyota R&D, sees the deal as a scenario that benefits all stakeholders, even those that do not purchase the truck. “A fuel-cell-powered version of the Hino XL Series is a win-win for both customers and the community. It will be quiet, smooth and powerful while emitting nothing but water. Toyota’s 20-plus years of fuel-cell technology combined with Hino’s heavy-duty truck experience will create an innovative and capable product.”
While the trucks are still being tested in Japan, Toyota and Hino say the finished product will have various options for specs, ranging from a gross vehicle weight rating of 33,000 to 60,000 pounds, up to 360 horsepower, and up to 1150 pound-feet of torque.
The way things are now, Toyota and Hino plan on having hydrogen-powered trucks on the market sometime in 2021, but also gives no specific date in that year. Whether FCET development will follow the currently set timeline or will be pushed back like electric trucks is yet to be seen.
For the first six months or so of 2021, the partnership hopes to test the vehicle on California roads, harnessing hydrogen from agricultural waste generated by California farms, in Toyota’s own “Tri-Gen” power plant.
It will be especially interesting if the hydrogen trucks hit the market before the electric trucks, and how that will impact sales of electric, hydrogen, and diesel-powered trucks. We will keep you posted as things change.