Toyota-Kenworth Tri-gen power.

Toyota and FuelCell Energy's new Tri-gen technology, which uses biofuels to produce three products: renewable electricity, renewable hydrogen.

Photo: Toyota

Toyota is an OEM not normally associated with commercial vehicles in North America. But the giant automaker has been quietly working on several zero-emission technologies that could have tremendous benefits for trucking fleets in the near future.

Toyota notably has been working with Kenworth for some time on hydrogen fuel cell technology for commercial vehicles. But the OEM’s ZEV efforts are creating some interesting new technologies outside of powertrain development.

One such example is Toyota’s new Tri-gen technology, which uses biofuels to produce three products: renewable electricity, renewable hydrogen, and usable water. Toyota said Tri-gen is the first port vehicle processing facility in the world to be powered by onsite-generated, 100% renewable electricity.

Both light-duty and Class 8 heavy-duty fuel cell electric vehicles have been fueled using Tri-gen generated renewable hydrogen, Toyota said.

ZEV Support at the Port of Long Beach

FuelCell Energy and Toyota Motor North America teamed up to develop the Tri-gen system. The first unit was uveiled at the Port of Long Beach in California on May 2.

Tri-gen was built to support the vehicle processing and distribution center for Toyota Logistics Services at Long Beach. This is Toyota’s largest North American vehicle processing facility, receiving approximately 200,000 new Toyota and Lexus vehicles from overseas annually.

“The goal of our collaboration with FuelCell Energy was to find sustainable solutions for the TLS vehicle processing facility here at the Port of Long Beach as part of our goal to remove carbon dioxide emissions from our operations,” said Tom Stricker, group vice president of sustainability and regulatory affairs at Toyota.

“This groundbreaking facility shows that there are ways to reduce our emissions and burden on natural resources with scalable technology based on hydrogen.”

Using FuelCell Energy’s Tri-gen platform, TLS Long Beach is Toyota’s first port vehicle processing facility powered by 100% on-site generated renewable electricity, the OEM said.

FuelCell Energy’s fuel cell technology uses an electrochemical process that converts directed renewable biogas into electricity, hydrogen, and usable water with a highly efficient, combustion-free process that emits virtually no air pollutants.

“Tri-gen demonstrates that hydrogen-based energy can benefit businesses, deliver zero-emission transportation for light- and heavy-duty vehicles, support improved air quality in local communities, reduce water usage, and deliver immediate and long-term benefits to the environment,” added Jason Few, CEO and president of FuelCell Energy.

Hydrogen and Electricity Production

Tri-gen produces 2.3 megawatts of renewable electricity, part of which will be used by TLS Long Beach to support its operations at the port.

Excess electricity is delivered to the local utility, Southern California Edison, under the California Bioenergy Market Adjustment Tariff (BioMAT) program, adding a renewable electric generation resource to the electric grid, according to Toyota.

Tri-gen can also produce up to 1,200 kg/day of hydrogen for the fueling needs of Toyota’s incoming light-duty fuel cell electric vehicle Mirai — while also supplying hydrogen to the adjacent heavy-duty hydrogen refueling station to support TLS logistics and drayage operations at the port.

California’s Advanced Clean Fleet Regulation requires all drayage trucks to be zero-emission by 2035. The Tri-gen platform supports FCEV Class 8 trucks today and is there to support ongoing migration to zero-emission trucks between now and 2035.

Hydrogen production can be ramped up and down based on demand.

Since completing construction last year, in January Toyota used the renewable hydrogen produced at Tri-gen to fill the first Toyota Mirai vehicles at TLS. In April the first heavy-duty FCEV Kenworth T680 Class 8 truck was filled at the adjacent Shell HD filling station using Tri-gen-produced renewable hydrogen.

The water byproduct of hydrogen generation can produce up to 1,400 gallons per day of usable water, which is being repurposed for TLS car wash operations for vehicles that come into port before customer delivery. This helps reduce the demand on the constrained local water supplies by approximately half a million gallons per year.

A New North American Hydrogen Headquarters

Toyota is also reaffirming its commitment to support fuel cell and additional hydrogen-related products and technology toward a hydrogen economy with the renaming the TMNA R&D California office as its new North American Hydrogen Headquarters (H2HQ).

Toyota's North American Hydrogen Headquarters.

Toyota's TMNA R&D Center in Gardena, California, has been recast as the OEM's Hydrogen Headquarters in North America.

Photo: Toyota

The office workspace at the new H2HQ was redesigned for its teams working from research and development to commercialization planning and sales of hydrogen-related products and technologies. There are plans to add key features to the H2HQ campus in the future such as a flexible microgrid, sustainable customer education center and more.

“Toyota has developed hydrogen fuel cell electric solutions for more than three decades, and we will continue to advance this scalable, zero-emission technology as part of our electrified portfolio,” said Ted Ogawa, President and CEO, Toyota Motor North America.

“Renaming this facility as North American Hydrogen Headquarters represents our leadership in fuel cell development creating real-world products to help reduce carbon emissions.”

Reorganized Hydrogen Business Structure

Last year, Toyota Motor Corp. reorganized its hydrogen business in Japan to create what it calls “Hydrogen Factory” with the idea to bring all hydrogen-related work under one location and accelerating customer-oriented product development and production in fuel cell or hydrogen-related products.

Then, Toyota Motor Europe announced its own “Hydrogen Factory” with the aim to further grow Toyota’s hydrogen business and stimulate wider roll-out of hydrogen ecosystems and infrastructure across Europe.

H2HQ similarly will drive North American-led hydrogen initiatives and support the localization of global hydrogen-related technologies and products that include light-duty fuel cell applications, heavy-duty fuel cell opportunities, stationary fuel cell power generation, port vehicle applications and more.

The facility already provides impressive research and development assets, including Toyota’s largest dynamometer (1.2 MW), a scalable test bench for stationary applications, and a hydrogen fueling station capable of providing fuel for both light- and heavy-duty vehicles. H2HQ will be home to several new projects in the coming years.

Construction has begun on a flexible microgrid that features energy sources available today, including a 230-kW solar photovoltaic system, a 1-MW stationary proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell generator, 325-kW solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC), and an onsite 500-kWh battery energy storage system.

The microgrid is designed to support the campus’ energy needs, allowing it the ability to operate off-grid. The system is expected to be fully operational by 2026.

In the future, Toyota’s plans for the new North American Hydrogen HQ will include a sustainable education center, available for tours by reservation. The center will be a place for people to learn more about Toyota’s vision of sustainability and the role that hydrogen will play.

In 2017, to address decarbonization efforts at local ports, Toyota’s FCD team helped prove the scalability of fuel cell technology after it acquired a Class 8 truck and fitted it with a fuel cell electric powertrain consisting of two Mirai fuel-cell stacks. This effort then led to a collaboration with Kenworth to build 10 proof-of-concept trucks, trucks used to support the “Shore to Store” ZANZEFF project that proved the viability of hydrogen-powered fuel cells as a zero-emission powertrain in heavy-duty applications.

Paccar and Toyota later agreed in 2023 to pursue commercialization of the project, with Toyota supplying the fuel cell powertrain kits from its Kentucky plant as a Tier 1 supplier.

Direct Recycling for Lithium-Ion Batteries

And on April 30, Toyota announced that it has entered a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory to investigate the development of a direct recycling process for lithium-ion batteries, which are prevalent in new electric vehicles. The focus of the research will be on cathode chemistries made of nickel, manganese, and cobalt.

Argonne Laboratories technician.

A technician at Argonne National Laboratory works on battery recycling technology. 

Photo: Argonne National Laboratory

The collaborative project with Argonne is part of Toyota’s pursuit of designing a closed-loop battery ecosystem aimed at maximizing sustainability.

In 2015, Toyota announced the Environmental Challenge 2050, a set of goals to achieve carbon neutrality across the vehicle lifecycle by 2050. For electrified vehicles, this includes battery recycling, whether after first use or after being repurposed or refurbished, to ensure that raw materials are extracted and put back into the production process.

For the project, Toyota will provide Argonne with both end-of-life and new Toyota batteries. Argonne will adapt and test its patent-pending direct recycling process with the batteries. Trina, Toyota’s in-house entity for exploring next-generation technologies, will validate this “proof-of-concept” study.

Originally posted on Trucking Info

About the author
Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts

Executive Editor

Jack Roberts is known for reporting on advanced technology, such as intelligent drivetrains and autonomous vehicles. A commercial driver’s license holder, he also does test drives of new equipment and covers topics such as maintenance, fuel economy, vocational and medium-duty trucks and tires.

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