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February 8, 2018 4:15 PM, EST
Kenworth Preps Hydrogen-Electric T680 for Drayage at SoCal Ports
ZECT Kenworth T680 day cab The Zero Emissions Cargo Transport, a Kenworth T680 day cab equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell, at Kenworth's Feb. 6 ride-and-drive event. (Roger Gilroy/Transport Topics)

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — Kenworth Truck Co. is wrapping up tests on a zero-emissions hydrogen-electric Class 8 truck that will be operating in drayage applications in Southern California by the end of March, company executives said.

A view of the ZECT's engine, showing the hydrogen fuel cell. (TruckPR/Flickr)

California has set a goal of having 100,000 zero-emissions freight vehicles in operation by 2035, and the Port of Los Angeles and the Port Long Beach, where Kenworth’s Zero Emissions Cargo Transport truck will operate, have included zero-emissions trucks into their latest clean air action plan.

“We are developing a path to production” for the truck, whose only emission is water vapor, Stephan Olsen, director of product planning for Kenworth, told Transport Topics Feb. 6 at Paccar’s Technical Center here.

The ZECT truck, which produces little engine noise when compared to a diesel, carries 30 kilograms of hydrogen behind the cab in six tanks, each pressurized to 5,000 PSI. Refueling with hydrogen can be done in 15 minutes.

Instead of an internal combustion engine, a fuel cell sits under the hood and produces electricity by combining compressed hydrogen and air to generate the current. A battery stack, weighing about 2,200 pounds, is located below the seats and stores the electricity. Related cables, lines and systems add another 1,500 pounds. A dual-rotor electric motor propels the truck with an output the equivalent of 565 horsepower. The truck is capable of carrying 80,000 pounds and uses an automated manual transmission.

In all, it weighs in at 22,000 pounds, or 6,000 pounds more than the diesel-powered version of the model T680 truck.

The truck has a range of 150 miles and can operate for 30 miles on batteries alone.

The system also can recharge the lithium-ion batteries for use later. A hybrid drive setup manages the power from the fuel cell to and from the batteries as well as the traction motors at the wheels and other components, such as the electrified power steering and brake air compressor, according to Kirkland, Wash.-based Kenworth.

Total Transportation Services Inc. will lease the prototype ZECT truck from Kenworth and operate it at both the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, the two largest ports, respectively, in the nation, Kenworth said.

The truck will be fueled at the carrier’s yard.

The asset-based logistics provider is located in Rancho Dominguez, Calif., and endorses reducing operational emissions and leaving as small a footprint as possible on the environment.

“We want to learn how the truck will interact with the rest of the fleet, the drivers and infrastructure,” Olsen said.

Kenworth’s truck is part of a demonstration project managed through Southern California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District.

About 60,000 trucks are involved in shorthaul operations in the LA Basin, Brian Lindgren, research and development manager, Kenworth, told TT.

The only way to get to zero emissions is either with hydrogen- or battery-electric power, Lindgren said.

Kenworth's ZECT will operate at the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach. (TruckPR/Flickr)

For heavy-duty trucks, battery electric has some challenges, he said.

For instance, the batteries are heavy and expensive. Also, keeping them charged presents challenges.

“Either you charge them for a long time or you charge them at a very high power rate. So that hasn’t all been worked out yet,” Lindgren said.

Also, Kenworth’s zero-emissions truck has more electronics compared with a diesel or natural gas engine due to all of the systems that require electricity.

“We are also controlling the batteries, fuel cell and the cooling systems — all electronics,” Lindgren said.

At the same time, many of the components are familiar to what the truck maker specs on a standard T680.

These include, among others: the front air disc brakes, the front suspension, the rear axle, rear brakes, rear suspension and tires on the 6X4 truck.

The truck will have the ability to go 30 mph on a 6% grade, can reach a top speed of 65 mph and has enough torque to get started on 20% grade with an 80,000-pound load.