Watch Toyota's Project Portal hydrogen fuel cell truck drag race a diesel semi

Automotive enthusiasts talk all the time about the performance characteristics of electric motors versus the fossil-fueled internal combustion engines that they seek to replace. The conversation about the differences between the two powerplants usually revolves around torque, and how that motive power is delivered. As you've probably read, or possibly even experienced yourself, electric motors deliver massive amounts of torque as soon as they start spinning, whereas gasoline or diesel engines need at least a thousand revolutions per minute to make any meaningful power.

The performance differences between electric motors and the sort of diesel engines used by large commercial trucks are even more pronounced. Semi trucks have huge engines with equally huge torque output, but they only make optimum power over a very narrow operating window. Sometimes, peak torque comes over just a few hundred rpm. That means they need transmissions with dozens of gear ratios.

Toyota's Project Portal truck, which uses an electric motor that puts out over 670 horsepower and 1,325 pound-feet of torque, doesn't need a transmission with a bunch of ratios. In fact, it has just one – its fixed ratio of 15.5:1 allows it to pull up to 80,000 pounds at American highway speeds. And, as the video up above demonstrates, Project Portal is (relatively) quick from a dead stop, out drag racing a conventional diesel-powered truck with a similar 35,000-pound load. As Car and Driver points out, quicker acceleration could equal less congestion in busy urban areas where huge trucks can be a bottleneck.

It must be pointed out that Toyota is not on the cusp of replacing the world's supply of heavy-duty commercial trucks with its Project Portal demonstrators. Even though Toyota's truck is powered by an electric motor, it relies on a hydrogen fuel cell to keep its relatively small onboard battery charged. And, in case you haven't noticed, we don't currently have any way to keep a hydrogen-powered truck full of fuel. Still, as a showcase for future technology, Project Portal looks promising.

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