Toyota has unveiled a prototype, hydrogen fuel cell-powered version of its Hilux pick-up truck.

The prototype features a powertrain based on that of the second-generation version of Toyota’s Mirai hydrogen car.

Three high-pressure fuel tanks, mounted under the floor of the truck, give the prototype an expected range of 365 miles between fill-ups.

Electricity generated by the fuel cell – which is placed under the bonnet where the engine of a diesel Hilux would be – is stored in a hybrid battery positioned at the front of the Hilux’s load deck, before being fed to the drivetrain. The only ‘exhaust’ product from the powertrain is water.

The prototype is rear-wheel drive ­– Toyota says the packaging is too tight to allow an all-wheel drive version currently, but that this is a future target.

The prototype Hilux has been developed at Toyota’s UK facility in Burnaston, Derbyshire, together with a consortium including Ricardo, ETL, D2H Advanced Technologies and Thatcham Research. Funding was subsequently gained from the UK Government through the Advanced Propulsion Centre, a non-profit organisation supporting the development of cleaner technologies and new mobility concepts. 

Toyota is planning to build 10 examples of the prototype by the end of this year, which will undergo real-world testing with UK-based customers.

Toyota says its testing will ensure the standards needed for a production model are met – however it has not given any indication about if and when a production version will arrive.

Speaking at the unveiling of the prototype, Toyota Motor Europe senior vice president Gerald Killmann said the automotive industry should adopt a flexible approach towards decarbonisation technology.

He said: “On our way towards carbon neutrality, hydrogen will play an increasingly important role. Nevertheless, in parallel, we need to decarbonise more and more, all of the energy sources for mobility. 

“Each of these technologies has different strengths and thus different use cases. Battery electric vehicle is useful in consumers daily trips, fuel cell has its strength especially in long distance or heavy load areas like trucks, or a 24-hour user like taxis or buses.

“In the future, we do see that these areas of BEV and fuel cell EV will actually converge and be overlapping each other. 

“[The] Hilux is a heavy-load vehicle and thus very good as a starting point, and really suitable for fuel cell technology, hence the initiative with this prototype.”

Also speaking at the unveiling, Toyota GB president and managing director Agustin Martin called for more government support for hydrogen.

He said: “[Hydrogen] is still a nascent technology, and to realise the benefits, appropriate investment and encouragement are required. It is therefore essential that a national, long-term, cross-sector strategy and guaranteed delivery plan are in place to give confidence to investors and consumers alike.

“To compete, hydrogen must be at the same competitive advantage as any other alternative zero-emissions technology being promoted. For the automotive sector in particular, a national programme to ensure sufficient hydrogen supply and refuelling infrastructure is critical.  

“Additionally, in this development phase, it is also essential to ensure a financial support mechanism to encourage customer demand as well as vehicle production and component supply chain.”