Toyota Group's Hino Motors teases a Class 8 heavy duty fuel cell electric truck (pictured here) in 2020, delivers the 100% battery electric Tern Class 8 truck in 2024 for the US market.

Toyota Launches Class 8 Tern 100% Electric Truck At US Market

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The Intertubes lit up this morning with news that Toyota is launching a 100% battery-electric pickup truck, only to disappoint US car buyers with news that it probably won’t be available in the US. What will be available is the new “Tern” Class 8 heavy duty electric truck, which is a big move considering that Toyota has been notoriously late to the 100% battery-electric party.

Toyota Catches Battery-Electric Truck Fever, With An Assist From Fuel Cell Truck Maker

To make matters even more interesting, the new Tern electric truck comes under the umbrella of Toyota Group’s Hino branch, which has been pitching a fuel cell Class 8 electric truck for the North American market. Go figure.

The fuel cell angle is even a bit more interesting because Hino has paired with the Norwegian battery and fuel cell firm Hexagon Purus to bring its battery-electric truck to life, in a deal valued at $2 billion.

Apparently Hexagon Purus can do two kinds of zero emission trucks at the same time, and battery power is getting the tap for the US market. In March of 2023, the company announced plans to produce all-electric, heavy duty Class 8 trucks for the US, to be sold through the Hino dealership network and serviced by Hino as well.

“The vehicles will be based on Hino’s XL 4×2 truck chassis and upfitted with Hexagon Purus’ proprietary zero-emission technology, including battery systems, auxiliary modules, power modules and the vehicle-level software,” Hexagon explained in a press release.

The 2023 announcement followed an earlier agreement for Hexagon to supply battery packs for several different Hino trucks to be produced commercially in 2024, so it appears that everything is going according to schedule.

If it keeps going on schedule, Hexagon expects to make 10,000 Class 8 trucks for Hino by 2030, a pace dictated in part by the demands of California’s Advanced Clean Trucks regulations.

“The ACT requires amongst other that 5% of all new class 7 and 8 trucks sold in 2024 in California must be ZEV while new additions to fleets of class 7 and 8 trucks operating to and from intermodal seaports and railyards are required to be ZEV from 2024,” Hexagon explains. The ultimate goal is 100% zero emission truck sales by 2040.

Here Comes The Tern Class 8 Electric Truck

Apparently Toyota aims for the Tern to jump ahead of the every-growing electric truck pack in the US market, and they are not messing around. Earlier today Hexagon announced that it expects the new Tern RC8 truck to begin rolling off the floor of its factory in Dallas, Texas, and into the hands of Hino dealers sometime later this year.

In support of the Made-in-the-USA venture, Hexagon is deploying a Hino chassis assembled in the US and an e-axle from the Ohio automotive firm Dana. For the time being, Panasonic Energy is shipping in its battery cells from Japan, but Hexagon expects future deliveries to come from Panasonic’s operation in DeSoto, Kanasa beginning in 2026.

In case you are wondering about the name Tern, that’s a good question. Terns — a type of seabird — do not look particularly remarkable, say on the level of an eagle or a peacock or any number of other birds.

However, there is a good explanation. “We are excited to introduce a truck that embodies the endurance and efficiency of the Arctic Tern, renowned for its light weight and long migratory journey – a trusty companion you can always rely on,” explained Hexagon CEO Morten Holum in a press statement.

New Tern Electric Truck & Cold Weather Performance

That reference to the Arctic Tern also signifies that Hexagon is confident about the new truck’s cold weather performance. That remains to be seen, but the old line about cold weather cutting into EV battery range is getting older by the minute.

Last year the public interest advisory firm Atlas Public Policy released an analysis of effective strategies that fleet owners are deploying to maintain lithium-ion battery performance in cold weather.

“Although some amount of cold weather range loss is unavoidable, municipal, and commercial fleets have demonstrated solutions and strategies to enable truck electrification,” Atlas concluded.

“Improved vehicle system level designs, such as replacing resistance heaters with more efficient heat pumps and heated seating, are critical to reducing parasitic battery loads. Vehicle pre-heating can help to reduce range losses, and planning ahead for operational changes can set fleets up for success,” they added.

Atlas also noted that battery range and supportive technologies are continuing to improve rapidly, so our guess is that Hino and Hexagon Purus have been paying attention. If they have, Tern drivers can expect a range of about 200 miles for city duty cycles, referring to how much (not how) the vehicle is used. According to Hexagon, city duty cycles account for about 95 of use cases for Class 8 trucks.

“Tern is specifically focused on electrifying practical commercial vehicle applications that yield the most significant benefits to drivers while minimizing or eliminating operational adaptations required by our fleet customers,” Hexagon explains.

For the record, the new Tern will sport Hexagon’s Gen3 269kWh battery packs in a 750-volt, 538 kWh configuration.

Whatever Happened To That Hino Fuel Cell Electric Truck?

Yes, what about it? Whenever Hino gets around to marketing a Class 8 fuel cell electric truck, Hexagon Purus could be in the running as a partner. The last time CleanTechnica checked in on Hexagon, they were hooking up with Ford to provide a hydrogen fuel storage system for Ford’s new F-Max fuel cell truck. The F-Max is Ford’s contribution to the European Union’s ZEFES program, which is taking a close look at both fuel cell and battery-electric long haul trucks.

Meanwhile, back in 2020 Hino and Toyota announced plans to develop a Class 8 fuel cell truck for the North American market. A prototype was in the works by 2021. In the meantime, in 2022 Hino announced a hookup between itself, Toyota, and Isuzo with Toyota’s Commercial Japan Partnership Technologies Corporation zero emission venture, aiming to produce a light duty fuel cell truck for the North American market.

“The joint initiative is expected to contribute to the realization of a hydrogen society, as well as carbon neutrality by expanding the options available for customer use and increasing the demand for hydrogen,” Hino explained.

In May of 2023 Associated Press also reported that Daimler’s stake in Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp., would hook it up with Hino as investors in a new Mitsubishi-Hino holding company, aimed at pushing the market for zero emission mobility including hydrogen fuel cells.

We’ll keep an eye on that. For now, though the big news from Toyota Group is the Tern battery-electric truck.

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Image (cropped): Toyota Group’s Hino Motors teases a Class 8 heavy duty fuel cell electric truck in 2020, delivers the 100% battery electric Tern Class 8 truck in 2024 (courtesy of Hino via prnewswire.com).


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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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