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Toyota: Hydrogen Fuel Cell Hilux project reaches demonstration phase

Evaluation and demonstrations underway with hydrogen fuel cell Toyota Hilux prototypes

A ground-breaking project to realise a hydrogen fuel cell Hilux pick-up has moved into its next and final phase, signalling yet another milestone in Toyota’s progress towards a zero-carbon future.

Since the unveiling of the first prototype vehicle in September 2023, Toyota and its consortium partners, supported by UK Government funding, have reached an intensive evaluation and demonstration stage.

The latest landmark in this joint development project further demonstrates the broad scope of Toyota’s multi-path strategy towards carbon neutrality, applying different powertrain solutions – hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, battery electric, fuel cell electric and e-fuels – to suit different user needs and local infrastructure.

A total of 10 fuel cell Hilux prototypes have now been built at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK (TMUK) facility in Derby, England. Five vehicles are undergoing rigorous field testing to assess safety, performance, functionality, and durability, generating test drive data in real-world situations. Five further units are engaged in customer and media demonstrations, including at the forthcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games Paris 2024. By engaging customers with hydrogen fuel cell technology, Toyota is laying the groundwork for a successful hydrogen transport sector in the future.

Along with Toyota’s 30 years of research and development into hydrogen fuel cells, know-how from the Hilux project will contribute to the next generation of fuel cell technology, which will offer longer lifecycles, increased driving range for vehicles and significantly reduced costs.

Toyota expects Europe to be one of the largest hydrogen fuel cell markets by 2030, with steady growth in mobility and power generation applications. As a result, in December 2023 Toyota Motor Europe (TME) announced the Hydrogen Factory Europe, representing Toyota’s co-ordinated approach to the commercialisation of this technology, from development and production to sales and aftersales.

The fuel cell Hilux prototype project is an important stepping stone to further develop hydrogen technology and stimulate a wider roll-out of hydrogen eco-systems and infrastructure across Europe.

Vehicle profile

Based on the legendary Toyota Hilux, with its reputation for Quality, Durability and Reliability (QDR) on the world’s toughest terrain, the hydrogen fuel cell prototype Toyota Hilux showcases how fuel cell technology can be integrated into a pick-up.

Since its initial launch in 1968, the Hilux has proved its invincibility time and again, having conquered the North Pole, Icelandic volcanoes and the Antarctic continent, whilst also achieving three victories in the Dakar Rally. The fuel cell Hilux retains that uncompromising DNA whilst looking to a zero-carbon future.

Externally, the fuel cell Hilux retains the same dimensions and rugged appearance as the latest Hilux. In extra-cab format, it is 5325 mm long, 1855 mm wide and 1810 mm tall but beneath the surface, Toyota’s fuel cell technology marks it out as a trailblazer.

Power is delivered using core elements from the Toyota Mirai – technology that has proved its quality in almost a decade of commercial production since Toyota introduced the world’s first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell sedan in 2015.

The fuel cell Hilux has an expected driving range of up to 600 km – further than might be achieved with a battery electric system. Meanwhile, thanks to hydrogen’s light weight, a higher payload and towing capability can be achieved compared to other zero-emission alternatives.

Hydrogen is stored in three high-pressure fuel tanks, each containing 2.6 kg for a total system capacity of 7.8 kg. The tanks are mounted within the ladder frame chassis.
The polymer electrolyte fuel cell stack contains 330 cells and is mounted above the front axle. The fuel cell Hilux is rear-wheel drive via an e-motor on the rear axle which delivers 134 kW (182 DIN hp) of maximum power and 300 Nm maximum torque. When driving, the fuel cell produces no tailpipe emissions, only pure water.

A Lithium-ion hybrid battery, which stores the electricity produced on-board by the fuel cell, is positioned in the rear load deck, above the hydrogen tanks. This avoids any loss of cabin space.

Project overview

Starting with a feasibility study in early 2022 to demonstrate the advantages of hydrogen via a representative prototype vehicle, the hydrogen fuel cell Hilux prototype project has moved forwards at pace towards its concluding phase.

The feasibility study, undertaken by TMUK and TME, enabled subsequent funding from the UK Government through the Advanced Propulsion Centre, a non-profit organisation supporting the development of cleaner technologies and new mobility concepts.

An intense design and development programme ran from July 2022 to January 2023, alongside consortium partners Ricardo, ETL, D2H Advanced Technologies, Thatcham Research and with additional support from Toyota Motor Corporation.

Parts manufacturing, including chassis frame welding, took place between February and May 2023, prior to prototype construction, which followed Toyota Production System principles in a dedicated area within the TMUK facility. Ricardo supported preparations for the prototype build, carrying out design and development tasks and confirming the complete manufacturing process in parallel with teams at TMUK.

Prototype construction took place between June and July 2023 and the first vehicle was completed in just three weeks. A further nine prototypes were assembled prior to a thorough evaluation phase from July to December last year, including test rig and track testing.

Those ten prototypes are now undergoing field testing alongside customer engagement activities, which will conclude the final phase of this research and demonstration project for the fuel cell Hilux.

Hydrogen solutions

Since the start of its hydrogen fuel cell development in 1992, Toyota has expanded its knowledge of the technology and encouraged its adoption across a wide variety of different mobility uses, with over 20 hydrogen partnerships currently active in Europe.

These include a five-year trial with hydrogen-powered VDL trucks to decarbonise Toyota’s logistics operations and stimulate the further development of sustainable hydrogen infrastructure across Europe.

Since July 2021, Toyota cobrands fuel cell buses with its CaetanoBus partner while French clean mobility company GCK uses Toyota’s fuel cell modules to convert ten diesel coaches to zero tailpipe emission vehicles and provide transportation to over 5,000 visitors during the Olympic and Paralympic Games Paris 2024.

A partnership with Corvus in Norway has realised one of the safest and most advanced marine fuel cell systems available. Furthermore, Toyota worked closely with Energy Observer to create the first hydrogen-powered, zero-emission boat to be self-sufficient in energy.

Toyota fuel cells are also used for non-mobility applications, such as the modular fuel cells which form the basis of Toyota partner EODev’s GEH2 generators. In May 2021, those generators illuminated the Eifel Tower in Paris with green, sustainable light.

Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell development

Building on its extensive experience, Toyota is developing its next-generation of hydrogen fuel cell, which is expected to deliver industry leading performance through longer lifecycles and reduced costs.

Toyota has continued to refine the technology since 1992, and in 2015 the Mirai became the world’s first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell sedan, using Toyota’s first-generation fuel cells. Five years later, a new Mirai introduced the second generation of fuel cells, which extended the driving range by 30% to around 650 km.

To expand the potential of hydrogen beyond cars, Toyota has repackaged its fuel cells into a compact modular form. The main components – the fuel cell stack and components that handle air supply, hydrogen supply, cooling, and power control – are integrated in a compact shape which can be easily adapted into a variety of products and applications. The modules are available in a box or a flat, rectangular format to allow greater flexibility and easier adaptation into new applications.

These fuel cell modules are assembled locally in Europe, at TME’s R&D centre in Belgium, which houses an assembly line combining advanced technologies with high-quality assembly. The Hydrogen Factory Europe operation will produce an increasing number of fuel cell systems and is closely connected with Toyota’s other hydrogen operations to achieve global reach and service.

A key element of Toyota’s plan for an expansion in hydrogen usage is the new, third-generation fuel cell technology currently under development, with sales scheduled for 2026-27. These units will deliver a higher power density and an expected 20% increase in driving range. Technical advances and increased production volumes can help to reduce costs by more than a third.

Further research is also looking at the potential of scalable fuel cell stacks with different power outputs and design of fuel tanks with complex shapes, compatible with different size vehicles.

About the consortium members

Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK (TMUK) produces Corolla Hatchback, Touring Sports and Commercial models at its production centre in Burnaston, Derbyshire, and hybrid engines at its facility in Deeside North Wales. TMUK began production in 1992 as Toyota’s first fully owned manufacturing business in Europe and went on to become the company’s first location for hybrid electric vehicle manufacturing outside Japan. To date, Toyota has invested more than £2.75 billion in its UK manufacturing operations; TMUK currently employs more than 3,000 people and supports many further jobs in its extensive UK supplier network.

Ricardo is a global strategic engineering and environmental consultancy specialising in the transport, energy and scarce resources sectors. Ricardo has supported the technical integration of the fuel cell components into the Hilux chassis.

ETL (European Thermodynamics) is committed to delivering high-integrity thermal solutions through excellence in design and innovation. ETL has studied reversible and multi fan arrangements.

D2H Advanced Technologies provides high-technology engineering services in simulation, modelling, aerodynamics, thermodynamics and design for motorsport and other high-performance industries. D2H has completed CFD analysis to highlight where improvements could be made.

Thatcham Research, the automotive risk intelligence company dedicated to understanding the opportunities and risks of new vehicle technology, supported the project through the provision of sustainable repair consultancy and the preparation of hydrogen training for the repair market.

Vehicle specifications (tentative)

FC POWER OUTPUT (kW/DIN hp) 128 / 174
MOTOR POWER OUTPUT (kW/DIN hp) 134 / 182
FUEL TANK CAPACITY 7.8 kg (3 x 2.6 kg)
ACC. 0-100 KM/H (SEC) N/A
TOTAL RANGE Up to 600 km
FUEL TANK CAPACITY 7.8 kg (3 x 2.6 kg)
OVERALL WIDTH (excluding mirrors) 1,855

SOURCE: Toyota

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