Toyota GR Yaris experimental vehicle shows hydrogen ICE engines could have a future
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Tokyo - As most of the world goes electric, Toyota is still hedging its bets on hydrogen power and in addition to the hydrogen fuel cell powered Mirai that it sells in select markets, the company is also working on hydrogen-powered combustion engine technology.
This technology has already found its way into an experimental race car that was revealed earlier this year, which was powered by a modified version of the 1.6-litre, three-cylinder turbopetrol found in the GR Yaris. And now that engine is returning home in the hydrogen-powered GR Yaris concept that you see here.
However it must be borne in mind that this technology is still in the early stages of conceptual development and experimentation at this stage but it seems that Toyota hopes to eventually commercialise it.
Interestingly, BMW worked on an internal combustion hydrogen engine in the early 2000s, with the 7-Series-based Hydrogen 7 enjoying a small production run. But BMW abandoned the project, reportedly because it could not achieve the desired efficiency and because authorities would not recognise it as a zero-emissions vehicle. This was due to the fact that, as a combustion engine, it still required lubrication, and thus a very small amount of oil could still find its way into the combustion chamber. Talk about splitting hairs..
Toyota says its hydro combustion engine emits “almost zero tailpipe emissions”, and we can only hope that the authorities make some kind of concession for this technology rather than banning ICE engines outright as many European countries plan to do in the 2030s.
Toyota says the hydrogen-powered GR Yaris concept and Corolla Sport race car have a modified fuel supply and injection system that’s compatible with hydrogen fuel.
The Corolla Sport has already been competing in the Super Taikyu race series in Japan since earlier this year, with Toyota Gazoo Racing having taken on the challenge of testing the technology within the harsh environments of motorsport.
“We’ve taken the first step to compete with and develop our hydrogen-powered engine with the mindset of taking on the challenge,” said Toyota President Akio Toyota. “I imagine things will look a little different 10 years from now, and I hope people will look back and see how we took on the challenge with positivity and enjoyed every moment of it.”
Because hydrogen combusts at a faster rate than petrol, the hydrogen-powered engine is more responsive than its petrol-powered equivalent, Toyota says, and this is good for the overall fun factor.
However, it remains to be seen whether Toyota has managed to achieve the desired efficiency levels with its experimental energy. Rumour has it that the next-generation Toyota Prius will have a hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine when it launches around mid-decade, so perhaps Toyota is on the road to making the technology viable.