Fuel cell trucks. Battery powered trucks.

Toyota fuel cell big rig truck

Fuel cells convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity, creating water as a byproduct. There are no toxic emissions. Electricity is stored in batteries or directly powers devices and vehicles. Several automakers already have fuel cell cars. Increasingly, they are developing fuel cell trucks. which are especially suited for short- to medium-haul routes with fixed pick up and drop off locations. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach already have zero emission fuel cell big rigs. They perform well, just like any other semi, and have no stinky emissions. Maintenance for them is less than for diesels.

The trucks will transport cargo across the Los Angeles basin, including to inland cities like Ontario and San Bernardino. The project is being funded by a $41 million grant from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), itself part of a larger $82 million funding program to add more hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and fueling facilities around the greater Los Angeles area by 2020.

Toyota’s choice of Kenworth as a partner is not surprising. The automaker used Kenworth trucks as the basis for its prototype Project Portal hydrogen fuel-cell semis, the first of which began operating in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in October 2017. Toyota introduced an updated second-generation version in 2018, based on the Kenworth T680.

Battery powered trucks

Battery powered trucks, like from Telsa, are increasingly being eyed by big rig operators as a way to cut costs and emissions. Walmart Canada is saying goodbye to diesel, and plans to have its entire fleet powered by renewable energy by 2028. It now has 40 Tesla EV trucks. Daimler is producing electric trucks for Penske. They can charge from empty to 80% in 60 minutes and have a range of 230 miles.

Regenerative braking

Bosch is working on regenerative braking for EV semi-trucks. Passenger hybrids like the Prius have had done for years. Kinetic energy created by braking is converted into electricity and stored in the electric motor battery. This technology, Bosch says, could save $11,400 per year per truck. A big trucking companies like Schneider has over 10,000 trucks. Do the math. The savings are huge.

Normally, friction braking would slow down a semi truck by using pneumatically actuated brakes, transforming motion into heat, whereas the regenerative braking will use the resistance of the electric motor to turn the kinetic energy into something that can be harnessed later. The energy is stored in batteries found in the trailer and can be used as either supplementary power to increase an electric semi’s range, or to power refrigeration units.