Toyota is putting its Project Portal fuel-cell truck through its paces, as the company looks to better understand the role of zero-emissions powertrains in future heavy haulers.

The truck, first announced in April, will be used to haul goods around the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California.

Initially, the trucks will cover about 322 kilometres per day, as Toyota seeks to better understand how the fuel cell system handles the demands of heavy haulage, but longer routes will be introduced as testing progresses.

The truck is powered by the same basic hydrogen fuel cells as the Mirai, albeit modified for trucking life. There are two fuel stacks and a 12kWh battery hidden under the bodywork, and drivers have 500kW of power on tap.

With 1800Nm of torque from its electric motors, the Project Portal can haul up to 36,000kg on routes up to 322km long. And when drivers are running out of range, they don't need to wait all night for the batteries to charge – just fill up with hydrogen, like you would diesel in a regular truck.

Well, fill up if there's a hydrogen filling station on hand, anyway.

“Toyota has led the way in expanding the understanding and adoption of fuel cell technology,” said Toyota Motor North America VP, Bob Carter.

“From the introduction of the Mirai passenger vehicle to the creation of the heavy duty fuel cell system in Project Portal, Toyota continues to demonstrate the versatility and scalability of the zero-emission fuel cell powertrain.”

Toyota isn't alone in developing a fuel cell-powered big rig, although competition is coming from slightly unconventional sources.

Nikola has the One, a hydrogen-hybrid truck capable of covering between 1,287 and 1,931 km with a fully charged battery and a fully brimmed hydrogen tank, although the company is only at the point of taking refundable deposits for now.