KIRKLAND, Wash. – The truck may be quiet as a mouse but Kenworth made some noise showcasing its hydrogen fuel cell electric truck during a media event Feb. 6 at the Paccar Technical Center in Mount Vernon, Wash.
Originally unveiled during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this past January, the T680 day cab truck is powered by a 30-kg hydrogen fuel cell which charges a 100 kW-h capacity battery.
Touted by Kenworth Trucks as producing zero emissions, the hydrogen fuel cell electric truck combines compressed hydrogen gas and air to produce electricity, releasing only water vapor from the tailpipe.
Due to the weight of the battery and its components, the ZECT (Zero Emissions Cargo Transport) tips the scale at 22,000 lbs., significantly more than a traditional diesel truck, which comes in at around 16,000 lbs.
Brian Lindgren, research and development manager for Kenworth, said they were in the early stages of the truck’s testing, and have only been in the driving phase since December.
The hydrogen fuel cell’s 30 kg capacity (six tanks with five kilograms of hydrogen) equates to a range of approximately 150 miles, and a fully charged battery will travel 30 miles with a full payload.
Stephan Olsen, Kenworth director of product planning, said they have been testing the truck in the Seattle area and are now ready for real-world testing with Total Transportation Services at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach where the truck will eventually be introduced.
“Our testing shows that this truck performs equally as well, if not better than, current diesel trucks on the market,” Olsen said. “There is a lot of promise and we see the day where Kenworth’s zero and near-zero emission trucks could be a common sight in regional operations.”
The truck comes with a four-speed automated Eaton transmission, XALT Xpand 650 VDC batteries, and a Ballard Power HC85 fuel cell engine developed and manufactured by Ballard Power Systems out of Burnaby, B.C.
States like California are driving up the demand for zero-emission offerings, with regulations mandating such efforts.
Kenworth received $2.8 million in funding to develop the hydrogen fuel cell electric T680 truck from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, with Southern California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District being the prime applicant and project oversight provided by the Center for Transportation and the Environment.
The lifespan of the battery ranges from six to 10 years and is temperature controlled with a cooling and heating system, which Lindgren said would mitigate any issues in cold or hot weather conditions. He added, however, that the initial intent is to help mitigate air pollution in the L.A. basin and that expansion of the application throughout North America would be pursued at a later date.
I drove the ZECT prototype on the Paccar test track during Kenworth’s media ride-and-drive, and the first thing I noticed was the lack of noise coming from the truck.
Unlike a traditional diesel truck, the ZECT was quiet as a mouse by comparison, which is not only beneficial from a noise pollution perspective but also for the driver.
I was hauling a near-full load during the test drive, which weighed in at 78,980 lbs., and like many other editors who got behind the wheel, I had to ask if we were pulling any weight in the trailer, as the truck had good pick-up and maneuvered very well along the track.
Since Kenworth had only been testing the ZECT since December, there were understandably some kinks that still needed to worked out, namely with automated gear shifting. However, the truck drove smoothly, handled well, and had some power under the hood.
The truck is expected to hit the streets by the end of March.
A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and TruckNews.com. I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.
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