Toyota and Kenworth to build 10 fuel-cell semis for LA port duty

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The word "drayage" isn't commonly used, even among green-car fans, but it's used by the shipping and logistics industries to refer to the transport of goods over short distances.

Drayage turns out to be the sweet spot for early efforts to put zero-emission heavy trucks on the road, including a joint project between Toyota and PACCAR's Kenworth brand, to put 10 hydrogen fuel-cell Class 8 semi tractors on the road.

We've known the pair were collaborating on a new iteration of its hydrogen-powered trucks since September, but a prototype displayed at this week's 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas offered more details. With the completion of these, Toyota will have been involved in fitting Mirai fuel cells into a total of 13 working trucks. 

READ THIS: Toyota enters $82 million partnership to roll out hydrogen trucks in LA port

The 10 modified Kenworth T680 Class 8 heavy-duty semi tractors are part of a project funded by several California state agencies to reduce vehicle emissions at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Each day, 16,000 diesel-powered heavy trucks deliver and pick up containerized freight at the ports, often waiting hours at a time to transfer their loads. While drivers are required to keep their engines off when not actually in motion, the emission impact on the surrounding communities remains enormous.

Altogether, the state has dedicated $82 million to add zero-emission cargo handling equipment and bring the necessary fueling infrastructure into operation by 2020. The state's goal is zero-emission operation at the ports by 2035.

Kenworth T680 powered by Toyota hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain, at 2019 Consumer Electronics Sh

Kenworth T680 powered by Toyota hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain, at 2019 Consumer Electronics Sh

At CES on Tuesday, the hydrogen Kenworth was one of several zero-emission heavy trucks on display. Others included a prototype battery-electric Peterbilt tractor of equal size.

While many Americans envision long-haul freight as the main role for semis, container transport often consists of many smaller steps: from port to distribution center, distribution center to warehouse, warehouse to retail store, and so on.

The short-haul "drayage" function actually covers journeys up to 60 miles in each direction—which represent a major percentage of all freight movement in the U.S.

CHECK OUT: Toyota introduces second hydrogen fuel-cell powered semi

That's the opportunity seen by the project's partners and funders. In this case, the 10 fuel-cell semis will haul freight among the ports and inland California cities like San Bernardino and Ontario.

With a range of 300 miles, they will likely need to be fueled only after a few sequential runs. The project includes construction of two commercial-scale hydrogen stations, in the California cities of Ontario and Wilmington, that can deliver up to 100 kg of compressed hydrogen at a time.

That's 20 times the 5 kg used in the Toyota Mirai fuel-cell sedan, and Craig Scott, Toyota's director of advanced technology vehicles, says the stations will be able to refuel 20 to 40 such trucks a day. Such high-flow stations will provide a far higher output than the three dozen or so hydrogen stations in California designed for fuel-cell passenger vehicles.

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