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Here’s the Technology Behind ‘Project Portal,’ Toyota’s Fuel Cell Truck

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Hydrogen fuel cells sound exotic and confusing — like a technology out of the science fiction films “Minority Report” or “The Fifth Element.”

But the science is actually pretty straightforward. A simple chemical process strips electrons from hydrogen to create an electrical current, then makes water for cooling by combining the hydrogen with oxygen.

Unlike a battery that needs to be charged from the grid, hydrogen fuel cells can power up on the go. They’re also smaller and lighter than battery-electric systems, with the bonus of being just as powerful and longer-lasting.

That makes fuel cell electric propulsion systems attractive for heavy-truck use. Automotive giant Toyota Motor Corp. plans to spend the next year or more testing a system in a prototype zero-emission Class 8 drayage truck on cargo runs from the Port of Los Angeles to warehouses within a 70-mile radius.

Toyota hopes to amass data proving fuel cell electric trucks to be reliable and economically competitive with battery-electric trucks. The technology could be a game-changer in regions like California, where air quality and renewable energy regulations are driving up demand for clean freight hauling.

How It Works

Individual fuel cells typically produce fairly low voltage. Toyota packs hundreds

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