Almost lost among the shiny show cars and stunning concept vehicles, Toyota held a low-key press conference over breakfast bites during the final media day at the LA Auto Show, announcing its commitment to the construction of a 2.35 mW carbonate fuel-cell generation plant in California.
The announcement was long on numbers and short on glamour, but in the long run it has the potential to be one of the most important reveals of the entire show. The tri-generation plant will convert biowaste from California’s agricultural industry into electricity, heat, and hydrogen. It will generate enough renewable energy to power the equivalent of about 2,350 average-size homes and meet the daily driving needs of nearly 1,500 vehicles.
The hydrogen generated by the plant will be used in a fleet of zero-emissions fuel-cell semi trucks operated at the Port of Los Angeles by Toyota Logistics Services. The fuel-cell semi trucks are part of Toyota’s Portal project, which was announced in April 2017 and now has its first demonstration truck hauling commercial cargo.
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Hydrogen beyond Toyota’s in-house needs will be sold to the public through an existing hydrogen fuelling station and a planned network of additional stations, allowing wider public adoption of fuel cell vehicles like the Toyota Mirai.
“For more than twenty years, Toyota has been leading the development of fuel cell technology because we understand the tremendous potential to reduce emissions and improve society,” said Toyota’s group VP of strategic planning Doug Murtha during the press conference. ”Tri-Gen is a major step forward for sustainable mobility and a key accomplishment of our 2050 Environmental Challenge to achieve net zero CO2 emissions from our operations.”
Tri-generation is based on a high-temperature fuel cell that internally reforms biogas into hydrogen to support generation of electricity and heat at the stack. By injecting more biogas fuel, excess hydrogen is produced that can be extracted as transportation fuel. A demonstration plant was commissioned in 2011 at the Orange County Sanitation District in Fountain Valley, CA, and construction of the new 2.35 mW facility is expected to be complete in 2020.