Toyota is one of a handful of automakers that believe hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCVs) are the future of zero-emissions transportation, even though its hydrogen passenger cars never really caught on. However, while fuel cells may not be the best suited for cars, as Toyota’s Mirai vehicle line has proven, they may be a much better match for larger vehicles such as pickups and trucks.

The idea of hydrogen fuel cell pickups is nothing new, and several companies have been interested in creating such a vehicle over the years. Still, none of these projects ever resulted in the creation of FCV pickups that you could buy. However, they were usually overly ambitious startups that lacked the resources and backing to make it happen.

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If there's one company that could make FCV pickups, it would be Toyota

Toyota has a lot of interest and a lot of resources behind developing hydrogen fuel cell technology and making it commercially viable, but so far it has been struggling to make it work.

Toyota is one of the world’s biggest automakers, though, and it’s a leader in FCV technology, so if it wanted to create a pickup using this propulsion system, it could. Automotive News quotes Jay Sackett, Toyota's chief engineer for advanced mobility and formerly the Toyota Tundra pickup project chief engineer, who said FCV technology “offers a great opportunity for light-duty trucks. You could get to the same amount range for a truck that you would need a very large battery for.”

Sacket spoke about this during an interview at Toyota’s North American Hydrogen HQ, where group vice president Jordan Choby also took to the stage to announce that the hydrogen tanks that Toyota already has would be a perfect fit for a Tundra-sized fuel cell pickup. Choby even noted that they “have a fuel cell Tundra in Japan that we use to tow our hydrogen internal combustion race car.”

Gallery: Toyota hydrogen-fuelled Hilux Prototype pick-up

The two execs made it clear that no decision has been made yet regarding the possible production of an FCV truck, but it would certainly make more sense than a pure battery-powered pickup whose range plummets when towing. With a fuel cell producing electricity onboard from a tank of pressurized hydrogen, a pickup would need a much smaller battery pack. Yet, it would provide more range than a purely electric truck, providing a similar range to a pure combustion truck.

Sacket says a fuel cell pickup is exactly what US truck buyers seek. He explains that “Tundra owners like to tow. Truck owners also want the fast fueling. Hydrogen allows you to do that. You can pump it like gasoline."

Aside from the single hydrogen fuel cell Tundra it is testing in Japan, Toyota also showcased an FCV version of the Hilux pickup created by its UK arm (pictured). It features the Mirai’s 182-horsepower powertrain repackaged in a truck body and has three tanks in the vehicle's floor, providing up to 365 miles of range before needing a refill.

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An older report from July 2022 said Toyota was looking to team up with other automakers to create hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles for use in Japan. It announced that it planned to join forces with Daihatsu and Suzuki to develop small vans for urban use and with Isuzu and Hino to make larger vehicles (mainly trucks) for more heavy-duty applications.

Toyota also conducted tests with fuel-cell-equipped Class 8 semi trucks in California. The goal was to match the performance and range provided by conventional diesel trucks, which Toyota said it achieved with the Kenworth T680 FCEV, which had a range of over 300 miles while fully loaded to 82,000 pounds. Filling it up took about 20 minutes, which enabled it to do multiple runs a day, and Toyota says the 10 trucks built for this trial proved highly successful.

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