An 80,000lb (36,288kg) Class-8 tractor-trailer combo using a development fuel cell drivetrain from two small Toyota Mirai sedans? Surely, I’ve been dropped into the way-far future of Logan’s Run. But no, it turns out Toyota’s future-trucking idea resides at California’s Port of Long Beach, where 18,630 shipping container units get processed per day. That’s almost one in five containers moving anywhere in the entire United States. In shipping terms, Long Beach is to shipping what Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson is to airports, making it the largest and likely best test lab for such a project.
Two years ago, Toyota began secretly testing a hydrogen fuel cell system alternative to the conventional diesel powertrain for heavy Class-8 trucks. Called “Project Portal,” this system is intended for drayage (short-haul movements), shuttling shipping containers between Los Angeles and Long Beach ports plus other freight depots. Toyota is the first major car company to dip a toe in the fuel cell trucking waters, and it could eventually market the powertrains to various truck manufacturers nationwide or through its own Hino truck division. (Toyota used a Kenworth to demonstrate the powertrain; however, Hino does not make a Class-8 rig.)