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Fueling the Future

Toyota has big plans for Port of Long Beach facility

June 28, 2018


Toyota has big plans to take clean vehicle technology to the next level, with the Port of Long Beach as its base.

The auto industry giant is seeking to build the world’s first large-scale, 100 percent renewable power plant. The pioneering fuel-cell facility would generate electricity to power all of Toyota Logistics Services’ operations at the Port and produce hydrogen fuel to support a new generation of zero-emission cars, trucks and equipment.

“This project is among the many ways we are laddering up to how we can be a net positive company for people and the environment,” said Russ Koble, Advanced Technology and Environmental Communications Manager for Toyota Motor North America, Inc. “Given the Port of Long Beach’s commitment to environmental stewardship and our longstanding partnership of more than 40 years, the Port is a natural fit for this project.”

Having already generated tremendous buzz in environmental and advanced vehicle technology circles, the project made its official debut at the Port in June. The unveiling came in the form of an environmental study of a wholesale reconfiguration of the terminal known as the Toyota Logistics Services Improvement Project. The Port is circulating the study for public review and comment through July 10.

The analysis shows that environmental impacts during construction would be mitigated and plant operations would have no significant negative environmental impacts. It also indicates the project’s energy efficiency and zero emissions objectives align with the Port’s aggressive air quality goals outlined in the 2017 Clean Air Action Plan Update.

“The proposed project has promising applications for expanding alternative fuel options and infrastructure to power trucks and cargo handling equipment here in Long Beach and around the globe,” said Port Executive Director Mario Cordero. “It would also go a long way to advancing our larger energy management and resiliency goals.”

The project

The Toyota Logistics Services Improvement Project would consolidate terminal operations, increase safety, and reduce on-site vehicle movement and related emissions at the Pier B terminal where Toyota offloads new cars and trucks, processes the vehicles and transports them to dealerships and other destinations via truck or rail.

The proposed 13,600-square-foot fuel cell power plant, called the Tri-Gen facility, would convert methane gas to electricity, hydrogen and water. An existing underground pipeline, with some improvements to the network, would deliver the biogas. A key source of the methane would be agricultural waste from Central Valley farms.

Fuel cells use a chemical reaction to convert hydrogen to electricity. The plant would produce approximately 2.3 megawatts of electricity, enough to run all terminal operations and provide a surplus of more than 15 million kilowatts that would be sold back to the grid. Last November, Toyota announced plans to partner with FuelCell Energy, a global clean energy solutions company, to install and operate the facility.

The plant would also have the capacity to produce nearly 1.4 tons of compressed hydrogen per day to support three fueling stations for vehicles that run on hydrogen. The three would be part of a larger fueling island with a total of 13 stations.

Water is the sole byproduct. It would be used at the on-site car wash.

The project would also demolish 223,200 square feet of existing offices, car wash, auto body shop and related operations. Toyota would consolidate much of this activity in a single 167,372-square-foot facility. The new structure would be built to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. The entire project would shrink the terminal’s overall footprint by about 20 percent.

The big picture

Environmental stewardship is not new to Toyota. But it was not until the automaker introduced the Prius – the world’s first mass-produced battery-electric hybrid vehicle – more than two decades ago that the company’s practices gained wider recognition, Koble said. “Toyota was built on respect for people, the environment and how we live and work in the world.”

Renovation of the Toyota Logistics Services terminal supports the company’s newest goals under its Global Environmental Challenge 2050. The theme reflects Toyota’s commitment to eliminating greenhouse gases from its vehicles, operations and supply chain by that date.

“We’re looking to electrify almost 100 percent of our vehicles by 2050,” Koble said. “The challenge includes looking at how we can make a difference, not just with our vehicles but with the facilities we’re building.”

Investing in a fuel cell power plant that generates electricity and produces hydrogen, as well as a companion hydrogen fueling facility, builds on Toyota’s success with the Mirai, a zero-emission sedan that runs on hydrogen with a range of more than 300 miles on a single tank. Introduced in late 2014, global sales of the Mirai are now approaching 3,600 vehicles.

In 2016, Toyota launched Project Portal to test a prototype drayage truck that runs on hydrogen fuel at the San Pedro Bay ports. The proof-of-concept Class 8 big rig is built with two fuel cell stacks used in the Mirai. To date, the truck has been used for short-haul drayage and delivering parts, materials and accessories to suppliers, warehouses and distribution centers.

The demonstration, which includes nearly 60 miles of freeway driving from the port complex to Toyota’s North American Parts and Logistics Center in Ontario, Calif., has already put more than 4,000 miles on the prototype. The ongoing study sets the stage for Toyota to conduct further testing of fuel cell technology in heavy-duty applications.

“We’re big believers in hydrogen,” Koble said. “It’s a great technology. It’s abundant and it’s clean.”

Next steps

Construction of the terminal renovation project hinges on a series of approvals and permits, starting with adoption of the environmental document by the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners. No date has been set, but the commissioners could vote on the document as early as this summer.

In addition to other Port approvals, the project requires permits and/or approvals from the City of Long Beach, the City of Los Angeles, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the California Department of Transportation.

The proposed hydrogen fueling station already enjoys support from the California Energy Commission. In April, the CEC announced the project has been tentatively awarded an $8 million grant from its Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program. Equilon Enterprises LLC, doing business as Shell Oil Products US, is partnering with Toyota on the project.

If all goes according to plan, the fuel cell power plant and hydrogen fueling station could be up and running in three to four years, Koble said. “If we can do it quicker, we absolutely will.”

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