Toyota is adding the 7-Eleven retail chain in Japan to its list of hydrogen fuel cell commercial truck customers.

The Japanese automaker has made a deal with 7-Eleven to produce fuel cell delivery trucks. The retail chain wants to reduce its carbon emissions in Japan, a country where the national government has been supporting fuel cell vehicles and fueling infrastructure.

Toyota may help the company transition at least 5 percent of its 5,800 unit delivery fleet to fuel cell trucks by 2020. Currently, hybrids and alternative-fuel vehicles make up about 15 percent of the 7-Eleven fleet in Japan.

Testing and deployment of the fuel cell trucks should begin in 2019. The vehicles will be Hino mid-size delivery trucks upfitted with fuel cell systems. Hino serves as Toyota’s medium-duty commercial truck division.

Toyota would be competing with one of its home-country vehicle manufacturers, Mitsubishi. As seen in the photo above, 7-Eleven has been using Isuzu medium-duty trucks for deliveries to its stores. Mitsubishi holds a sizable share of Isuzu ownership.

Toyota is also testing fuel cell dreyage trucks at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. And, the automaker further plans to deliver 100 of fuel cell buses in and near Tokyo in advance of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

While Toyota has made it clear that all-electric passenger vehicles are becoming a top priority, fuel cell vehicles won’t be going away on its priority list. Commercial fuel cell vehicles could be a niche market to fill as markets such as Japan stay committed to the clean fuel.

There will be competition from the Nikola One hydrogen-powered Class 8 semi truck. One the electric side, Tesla will be entering the market next month and Daimler is making headway in the electric medium-duty truck market.

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7-Eleven could also be a partner in expanding the hydrogen fueling infrastructure in Japan and the U.S. In April, the company announced plans to spend $3.3 billion on retail gas stations and convenience stores from Texas-based Sunoco LP.

The retail chain is going that route to expand its retail chain, with the goal of hitting 10,000 locations in the U.S.
Nikkei Asian Review via Gas 2.0