Los Angeles, California – The trucking industry may not be biggest culprit when it comes to emissions, but it is one of the most visible.

The iconic plumes of brown smoke from 18-wheeler ‘big rigs’ as they accelerate, immortalised in road movies from ‘Convoy’ to ‘Speed’, are as much a part of the American automotive landscape as the Ray-Bans on the Highway Patrolman who pulls the hero over.

But that may be about to change; while electric long-haul trucks are still some way off, Toyota has gone down a different route to put a zero-emission rig on the road right now, using existing technology.

The Project Portal H2 is a proof of concept prototype 18 wheeler semi-trailer powered by two of the production hydrogen fuel-cell stacks developed for the Toyota Mirai sedan, together with a 12kWh battery – which is a lot smaller than we’d have expected but apparently sufficient to smooth out power delivery from the stacks as needed.

Together they've been uprated to deliver "more than 500kW and 1800Nm", more than enough to move a rig with a fully loaded weight of 36 tons, while emitting nothing but water vapour. The prototype has a driving range of more than 320km and takes about 20 minutes to refuel-not much longer than a diesel truck.

The working prototype will enter full-time service during the second quarter of 2017, hauling containers in and out of the Port of Los Angeles in a feasibility study into the potential of fuel cell technology for heavy duty applications, under the auspices of the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan and the California Air Resources Board.

The project is aimed not only at reducing the emissions load of the dockyard but also at reducing the cost per kilogram of the hydrogen fuel by vastly increasing the amount of hydrogen going through California's supply infrastructure.

The H2 has a fuel capacity 10 times that of a Mirai, and Toyota has had to build a high-volume 'hydrogen truck stop' near the port because refilling the H2 at one of California's 31 commercial hydrogen fillings stations would shut it down!

IOL Motoring

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