Watch Now

Toyota will build heavy-duty truck fuel cell modules in Kentucky

Fuel cell trucking field grows with world’s largest automaker’s manufacturing entry

Toyota Motor North America will begin building fuel cell modules for heavy-duty trucks at its Kentucky assembly complex in 2023. (Photo: Toyota)

Toyota Motor North America will add a dedicated production line for heavy-duty truck fuel cell modules to its assembly complex in Kentucky, moving its zero-emissions technology from prototype to production.

Toyota (NYSE: TM) doesn’t make heavy-duty trucks. However, it is betting a market exists for hydrogen-powered fuel cell systems, which it initially created for its Mirai fuel cell passenger sedan. 

Combining two Mirai fuel cell systems creates sufficient power to move a loaded 80,000-pound heavy-duty truck more than 300 miles between fill-ups with liquid hydrogen., said David Rosier, Toyota Kentucky powertrain head.

Toyota Motor Corp. provided the fuel cell systems for Kenworth T680 Class trucks in demonstration use in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California. (Photo: Toyota)

A two-year collaboration with Kenworth Truck Co. led to 10 fuel cell-powered Class 8 trucks recently being deployed on drayage runs within the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California. Kenworth is non-committal about additional trucks, but its work with Toyota makes the PACCAR Inc. subsidiary a logical choice for the Toyota fuel cells.

“Heavy-duty truck manufacturers will be able to buy a fully integrated and validated fuel cell electric drive system, allowing them to offer their customers an emissions-free option in the Class 8 heavy-duty segment.”

Tetsuo Ogawa, president and CEO, Toyota North America Inc.

Competitive landscape

Daimler Truck and Volvo Group recently finalized a fuel cell joint venture that expects to begin making fuel cells for both companies’ heavy-duty trucks around the middle of the decade. South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Corp. has delivered dozens of fuel cell trucks to Switzerland and plans to begin demonstrations in the U.S. as soon as this year.

Traton Group’s Navistar International subsidiary announced a collaboration with General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM) in January to make fuel cells for an International RH Series daycab that J.B. Hunt Transport Services would use on dedicated routes.

Startup Nikola Corp. is building non-saleable versions of its Iveco-based Nikola Tre fuel cell that will be tested by beer giant Anheuser-Busch. Singapore-based Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies spinoff Hyzon Motors plans to deliver its first fuel cell trucks to European customers this year.

Hyzom (NASDAQ: HYZN) is retrofitting up to 10 Freightliner Cascadias with its fuel cell system for a demonstration with Total Transportation System Inc. (TTSI), a logistics, brokerage and trucking services operator in climate-conscious California. TTSI also has agreed to purchase up to 100 battery-electric and fuel cell trucks from Nikola (NASDAQ: NKLA).

Fully integrated and validated

“We’re bringing our proven electric technology to a whole new class of production vehicles,” Tetsuo Ogawa, Toyota North America president and CEO, said in a press release Wednesday.

“Heavy-duty truck manufacturers will be able to buy a fully integrated and validated fuel cell electric drive system, allowing them to offer their customers an emissions-free option in the Class 8 heavy-duty segment.”

The dual fuel cell modules, which are key to an overall fuel cell kit, weigh approximately 1,400 pounds and can deliver up to 160 kilowatts of continuous power. The fuel cell stacks are built in Japan.

The kit also includes a high-voltage battery, electric motors, transmission and hydrogen storage assembly from suppliers that Toyota did not identify. Toyota said it will help manufacturers integrate and adapt the fuel cell systems for a variety of trucking applications.

The dedicated line at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky will begin assembling integrated modules for heavy-duty trucks in 2023. GM and Honda Motor Co. have a fuel cell manufacturing joint venture south of Detroit that was expected to begin fuel cell stack production around 2020.

Toyota has been slow to evolve from its signature hybrid-electric system to full battery-electric operation for its passenger vehicles. It has embraced fuel cells and is creating a 175-acre city to run on fuel cells in Japan.

Toyota equips Kenworth Class 8 truck with updated fuel cell

Kenworth, Toyota unveil fuel cell electric truck 

Is heavy-duty fuel cell commercial trucking almost ready for prime time?

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

Future of Supply Chain


The greatest minds in the transportation, logistics and supply chain industries will share insights, predict future trends and showcase emerging technology the FreightWaves way–with engaging discussions, rapid-fire demos, interactive sponsor kiosks and more.

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.