Toyota secures funding to develop hydrogen fuel cell version of its Hilux pickup in the UK

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A Toyota logo displayed on a vehicle in Poland. The Japanese automotive giant started working on the development of fuel cell vehicles back in 1992.
Artur Widak | Nurphoto | Getty Images

LONDON — A consortium led by automotive giant Toyota will receive millions in funding to develop a hydrogen fuel cell pickup truck in the U.K.

In a statement Friday, Toyota said the fuel cell-powered prototype of its Hilux pickup would be developed at its plant in Burnaston, in the East Midlands of England.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK is heading up the consortium, which is being backed by £5.7 million (around $7 million) of industry funding and £5.6 million from the U.K. government. Thatcham Research, D2H, ETL and Ricardo are also involved in the project.

Although the initiative is being led by TMUK, Toyota said “technical support” would come from Toyota Motor Europe R&D.

“Within the scope of the funding bid, initial prototype Hilux vehicles will be produced at Burnaston during 2023,” it added. “Once successful performance results have been secured, the intention is to prepare the vehicle for small series production.”

Fuel cell technology involves hydrogen from a tank mixing with oxygen, which in turn produces electricity. As the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center notes: “Fuel cell electric vehicles emit only water vapor and warm air, producing no tailpipe emissions.”

An aerial view of the​ Toyota’s manufacturing plant in Burnaston, England. The Japanese automotive giant started working on the development of fuel cell vehicles back in 1992.
David Goddard | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The original version of the Hilux dates back to the 1960s, and several iterations of the vehicle have been developed since. The U.K. government said a fuel cell Hilux would be “ideal for use in isolated settings where electric vehicle charging is impractical.”

Friday’s news represents Toyota’s latest move in the sector. The firm started working on the development of fuel-cell vehicles back in 1992. In 2014, it launched the Mirai, a hydrogen fuel cell sedan.

Alongside the Mirai, Toyota has had a hand in the development of larger hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. These include a bus called the Sora and prototypes of heavy-duty trucks. As well as fuel cells, Toyota is looking at using hydrogen in internal combustion engines.

While the business is known for its hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, it is also attempting to make moves in the increasingly competitive battery-electric market, where firms like Tesla and Volkswagen are jostling for position.

This has not been without its challenges and in June 2022, Toyota issued a safety recall for more than 2,000 of its all-electric SUV, the bZ4X.

This image, from 2013, shows a row of Toyota Hilux pickup trucks at a facility in Portugal. The original version of the Hilux dates back to the 1960s, and several iterations of the vehicle have been developed since.
Mario Proenca | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The company may be looking to invest billions in EV battery production, but it has also stressed it “will continue to make every effort to flexibly meet the needs” of customers “in all countries and regions by offering multiple powertrains and providing as many options as possible.”

The U.K. wants to stop the sale of new diesel and gasoline cars and vans by 2030. It will require, from 2035, all new cars and vans to have zero-tailpipe emissions. The European Union — which the U.K. left on Jan. 31, 2020 — is pursuing similar targets.

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