Kenworth to deploy prototype hydrogen-powered trucks at LA Ports

A rendering from Kenworth of two of the T680 alternative fuel tractors.A rendering from Kenworth of two of the T680 alternative fuel tractors.

Kenworth is deploying low/zero emission T680 trucks for drayage operation in Southern California ports, thanks to $9 million in government grants awarded last August.

Using a fuel cell – provided by Ballard Power Systems in Burnaby, British Columbia – Kenworth is developing a prototype Class 8 hydrogen fuel cell tractor designed to provide true zero-emissions operation. The T680 day cab tractor uses lithium-ion batteries to power a dual-rotor electric motor, driving the rear tandem axle through a 4-speed automated transmission. The batteries are recharged by the fuel cell.

Kenworth says its hydrogen truck is expected to be ready for initial track and on-road testing in the fourth quarter of this year.

This week, Kenworth began building a second prototype series hybrid-electric T680 day cab designed to produce near-zero-emissions. The truck will use the currently available Cummins Westport ISL G Near Zero NOx engine fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG) to generate electrical power. Initial track and road testing is expected to start in the fourth quarter.

Kenworth says the two T680 tractors will be identical, with the exception of their power generation systems.

Each truck will have an electric-only range of approximately 30 miles, and the on-board fuel – hydrogen or natural gas –will provide sufficient range for a full day in regional haul applications. Kenworth’s work on these programs is supported by grants of $2.1 million for each project from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), with Southern California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) as the prime applicant.

A third project received $4.8 million in funding from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), again with the SCAQMD as the prime applicant. Kenworth will build four additional, hybrid-electric T680 day cabs equipped with the Cummins Westport ISL G Near Zero NOx engine operating on compressed natural gas, and will also support customer field tests of these units in Southern California drayage operations.

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Kenworth will build its first unit for this project in 2018. Kenworth says its engineers will be able to make design and system refinements to this 2018 unit based on data collected from this year’s real-world testing of the initial, 2017 hybrid-electric T680.

All six prototype T680 day cab drayage tractors, produced as a result of these Kenworth programs, will transport freight from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to warehouses and railyards in the Los Angeles basin.