Toyota has made a lot of progress on its hydrogen fuel cell semi truck since unveiling the Alpha model in 2017. The automaker has unveiled a Beta version of its Project Portal semi that promises huge improvements. For one, the zero-emissions vehicle now drives 300 miles on a hydrogen tank instead of roughly 200 — rather important if it’s going to be hauling cargo all day. It’s also more maneuverable, and manages to create more cab space (including a sleeper cab) thanks in part to a “unique fuel cabinet combination”. If you ask Toyota, the upgrades were largely a matter of having time to make refinements.
The Alpha model’s system amounted to two modified Mirai fuel cells and a giant battery — the Beta is a more purpose-built machine that reflects lessons learned from the first time. This new semi will start hauling cargo around the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles sometime in the fall. It’s not about to carry goods across the country any time soon, especially not when Nikola’s semis will drive 500 miles or more. Instead, Toyota sees this as a baby step. The firm hopes to eliminate all CO2 emissions from its logistics facility at Long Beach by 2050, and this is one piece in that larger puzzle. Any broader ambitions may have to wait for follow-ups with enough range to comfortably travel between cities.