Hydrogen Fuel Cell Hilux project reaches demonstration phase

7 June 2024

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Hilux project reaches demonstration phase

A ground-breaking project to develop a hydrogen fuel cell Toyota Hilux pick-up has moved to its final phase, signalling 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 successfully progressed their joint development project to the stage of intensive prototype evaluation and demonstration.

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

Ten fuel cell Hilux prototypes have been built at TMUK’s Burnaston facility in Derbyshire. Five vehicles are undergoing rigorous field testing to assess safety, performance, functionality and durability, generating test drive data in real-world situations. A further five vehicles are engaged in customer and media demonstrations, including at the forthcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games Paris 2024. Through its engagement with customers, Toyota is laying the groundwork for a successful future hydrogen transport sector.

Know-how gained from the Hilux project will combine with Toyota’s 30 years of hydrogen fuel cell research and development to contribute the next generation of fuel cell technology. This will offer longer lifecycles, increased vehicle driving ranges and significantly reduced costs.

Toyota expects Europe to be one of the world’s largest hydrogen fuel 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, reflecting the company’s co-ordinated approach to the commercialisation of the technology, from development and production to sales and after sales.

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

Vehicle profile

The hydrogen fuel cell prototype Toyota Hilux showcases how fuel cell technology can be integrated into a pick-up vehicle. It is based on a model which has a legendary reputation for quality, durability and reliability, demonstrated in the world’s toughest terrains.

Since the original Hilux was introduced in 1968, the model has proved its formidable strength time and again, conquering the North Pole, Icelandic volcanoes and the Antarctic continent. Moreover, it has three victories in the Dakar Rally to its credit, one of the world’s most challenging motorsport challenges. The fuel cell prototype shares Hilux’s uncompromising DNA, while looking towards a zero carbon future.

Externally, the fuel cell model has the same dimensions and rugged appearance as the latest Hilux generation. Using an extra-cab body style, it is 5,325mm long, 1,855mm wide and 1,810mm tall. But beneath the surface, Toyota’s fuel cell technology marks it out as a trailblazer.

Power is delivered using core elements from the fuel cell system featured in 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 fuel cell saloon in 2015.

The fuel cell Hilux has an expected driving range of up to 373 miles/600km – further than might be achieved using a battery electric system. And 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 2.6kg to give a total capacity of 7.8kg. The tanks are mounted within the vehicle’s 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 delivering a maximum 134kW (180bhp, 182 DIN hp) and 300Nm of torque. When the vehicle is driven, the fuel cell produces no tailpipe emissions, only pure water.

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

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Hilux project reaches demonstration phase

Project overview

The hydrogen fuel cell Toyota Hilux prototype project began with a feasibility study in early 2022 and has moved at pace towards its concluding phase. The initial study, undertaken by TMUK and TME, enabled subsequent funding from the UK Government through the Advanced Propulsion Centre, a non-profit organisation which supports the development of cleaner technologies and new mobility concepts.

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

Parts manufacturing, including chassis frame welding, took place between February and May 2023, prior to prototype construction following Toyota Production System principles in a dedicated area within TMUK’s Burnaston plant. 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.

Construction took place in June and July 2023 and the first vehicle was completed in just three weeks. A further nine were assembled between July and December, ahead of a thorough evaluation phase that included test rig and track testing.

The 10 prototypes are now undergoing field testing alongside customer engagement activities. This will conclude the final phase of the demonstration project for the fuel cell Hilux.

Toyota explores diverse opportunities for hydrogen

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 range of different mobility uses, with more than 20 hydrogen partnerships currently active in Europe.

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

Since July 2021, Toyota has co-branded fuel cell buses with its partner manufacturer CaetanoBus, while French clean mobility company GCK is using Toyota’s fuel cell modules to convert 10 diesel coaches to zero tailpipe emission vehicles which will be used to transport more than 5,000 visitors during the Olympic and Paralympic Games Paris 2024.

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

Toyota fuel cells are also used for applications other than mobility/transport, such as the modular fuel cells which form the basis of the GEH2 generators produced by Toyota’s partner EODev. In May 2021, these generators were used to illuminate the Eiffel Tower in sustainable green light.

Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell development

Toyota is building on its extensive technology experience to develop its next generation fuel cell, which is expected to deliver industry-leading performance with longer lifecycles and reduced costs.

The company has continued to refine the technology over more than 30 years. In 2015, Mirai was launched as the world’s first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell saloon, equipped with Toyota’s first generation fuel cells. Five years later, a new Mirai introduced the second generation technology, which extended the car’s driving range by 30 per cent, to around 400 miles/650km.

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

These modules are assembled at TME’s R&D centre in Belgium. This houses an assembly line with combines advanced technologies with high-quality assembly processes. The Hydrogen Factory Europe will increase its fuel cell system production and has close connections with other Toyota hydrogen operations to achieve global reach and service.

New, third generation fuel cell technology is currently under development. This is a key element in Toyota’s plan for expanding hydrogen usage, with sales scheduled to commence in 2026-27. These units will have a higher power density and enable an expected 20 per cent increase in vehicle driving range. Technical advances and increased production volumes could help to reduce costs by more than a third.

Further research is assessing the potential of scaleable fuel cell stacks with different power outputs and the design of fuel tanks with complex shapes, compatible with different size vehicles.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Hilux project reaches demonstration phase

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Toyota Hilux Prototype – provisional technical specifications

Fuel cell type Polymer electrolyte
Number of cells 330
Fuel cell power output (kW/bhp/DIN hp) 128/172/174
Motor type Permanent magnet, synchronous
Motor power output (kW/bhp/DIN hp) 134/180/182
Max. torque (Nm) 300
Battery type Lithium-ion
Number of cells 84
Capacity (Ah) 4.0
Number of tanks 3
Total capacity (kg) 7.8 (3 x 2.6)
Front suspension Double wishbone
Rear suspension de Dion
Steering Electric power steering
Overall length (mm) 5,325
Overall width – exc. mirrors (mm) 1,855
Overall height (mm) 1,810
Front track 1,570
Rear track 1,570
Wheelbase 3.085