The average diesel semi-truck on the road right now gets seven miles per gallon. And with over eleven million of these trucks on U.S. roads and highways today, that’s a lot of pollutants being released into the air.
Toyota dealers are committed to making a better future and recognize the impact that pollution can have on people around the world. In 2015, Toyota gave itself a number of challenges in order to reduce its environmental impact in an initiative called the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050.
So what’s in store for the future?
As one part of this initiative, Toyota plans to reduce its CO2 emissions by 90% from its 2010 levels. One solution Toyota innovators are testing is hydrogen fuel cells. This project, which started real-world testing in 2017, is currently focusing on zero-emissions fuel cells in semi-trucks.
Hydrogen fuel cells power a vehicle by combining liquid hydrogen from the fuel tank with oxygen from the air. This creates water and electricity to power the vehicle. There is no CO2 emitted from this process, making water the only byproduct of this technology.
Currently, Toyota is doing tests with experimental models of hydrogen-powered semi-trucks, referred to as Alpha and Beta. Alpha was put on the road in 2017, and Beta, the new and improved truck, will start driving later this year.
While hydrogen-powered semi-trucks are still in the experimental phase and are not close to being available to the public, this is one step Toyota is taking toward a greener future.
Toyota introduced Alpha, its first hydrogen fuel cell-powered truck, in mid-2017. This was the first of its kind; a semi-truck that ran completely on hydrogen. It can travel over 200 miles on full tank of hydrogen.
Over the past year, Alpha has been on the road making short-haul trips in the Los Angeles and Long Beach, California areas. Through thousands of miles of real-life testing, Toyota has made note of things that work with Alpha and things that need to be improved so that future models of this truck can become commercially viable.
What’s New in the Beta Model?
Toyota’s engineers have taken into consideration everything they’ve learned from Alpha and made a number of improvements. The next generation of this truck, Beta, will be on the road in the autumn of 2018, and it’s an improvement in many ways:
The vehicle’s range is increased by over 300 miles per fill, meaning that Beta can travel over 500 miles before having to refill its tank with hydrogen. This is a big step toward making this truck a commercially viable option. Part of what made hydrogen fuel an infeasible solution in the past was that fuel cells could not get as many miles per tank as the diesel engine counterparts. These zero-emissions trucks are currently being used only for short trips within the city, but as Toyota innovators continue to work with the technology, it is possible that hydrogen-powered trucks could be seen across the country.
The overall Beta design is better. It is easier to operate and drive. As well, Beta introduces a fuel cabinet that increases room in the cab for the driver while not increasing the length of the vehicle.
Beta is more powerful. The horsepower and torque have been carried over from Alpha, but Beta performs better, more like any other commercial truck.
All of these improvements make for a truck that is more functional and similar to other commercial trucks on the road today. Toyota’s testing and focus on improving this technology means that hydrogen-powered trucks may one day take the place of its pollution-emitting diesel counterparts.
Why This Matters
We all want a cleaner world with better air quality, but we also want the convenience of a 21st century life that allows us to have goods from around the world available when we want them.
Toyota recognizes both of these needs and is focusing on creating zero-emissions trucks, such as Beta, to lower the amount of pollution in the air.
The current project is working on eliminating the pollution in a single city area before tackling the rest of the country. There are currently 16,000 diesel semi-trucks working in the Los Angeles and Long Beach areas. In the future, if hydrogen-powered trucks can replace the diesel trucks in these cities, that will lead to healthier air for everyone there.
At this point, the technology will be on its way to becoming viable for widespread use, meaning that more people around the country will be able to use it to ship goods while reducing pollution.
What’s Available Now?
Toyota is committed to both innovation and the environment. Zero-emissions trucks like Beta are just one of the many projects that stemmed from the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050. Toyota is also interested in expanding CO2-eliminating technology to consumer vehicles.
Already, at select Toyota dealers in California, the Mirai is available. This is Toyota’s first hydrogen fuel cell-powered car, available for consumers who want to be the first to try out this exciting new technology. This car runs on similar fuel cell technology to Beta, meaning that the Mirai produces no emissions other than water.
Similar to electric cars, Mirai owners have to fill up the fuel tanks at special locations. These are currently located throughout cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, making it convenient for people who live in the Mirai’s test market area.
Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Powered Toyota Mira Available Now
Hydrogen fuel is currently priced a few dollars per gallon higher than regular gasoline, though as this technology expands its reach and becomes more widely available, prices will likely drop.
California is currently acting as a test market for this technology, meaning that the Mirai is not yet available to everyone in the country. However, as with zero-emissions trucks, if the California test market proves successful, hydrogen fuel cell cars could be making their way to a city near you.
Even if you don’t live in California or aren’t interested in owning a hydrogen-powered car just yet, there are still ways you and Toyota can work together to reduce emissions. Your local Toyota dealer offers a selection of environmentally-friendly cars, such as the Prius and the Camry Hybrid, which give you great gas mileage while producing less pollution than your average car.