Toyota Motor this week said it plans to develop a hydrogen fuel cell powered heavy duty truck for North America in partnership with its commercial vehicle subsidiary Hino Motors.

The automaker confirmed it would make available its fuel cell technology for the project which will be applied initially to Hino's XL series Class 8 truck chassis. A prototype is expected to be developed in the first half of 2021 but a timeline for commercialisation has not yet been released.

The announcement follows an agreement signed in March to co-develop a 25 ton fuel cell powered semi trailer tractor for Japan with Hino.

Toyota is seen as a leader in the emerging hydrogen fuel cell technology segment with more than 20 years of research and product development. In addition to a comprehensive development programme involving fuel cell powered passenger vehicles, the company also has been involved in a pilot project to test fuel cell trucks at the Port of Los Angeles since 2017.

Hydrogen fuel cell technology is seen as a leading contender to replace diesel power in medium and heavy trucks, as emissions regulations become increasingly strict in key markets such as Europe and Japan. In California, regulators in August introduced new rules targeting heavy trucks that will help reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 75% from current levels by 2024 and by 90% by 2027.

General Motors last month announced a partnership with US electric truck startup Nikola Corporation to co-develop hydrogen powered heavy trucks.

Hyundai has its own fuel cell truck development plans while Volvo Group and Daimler announced a joint venture earlier this year to commercialise fuel cell powered vehicles for long haul trucking.