Hydrogen could keep piston engines revving in Toyota sports and racing cars

by Nik Berg
5 December 2023 2 min read
Hydrogen could keep piston engines revving in Toyota sports and racing cars

Toyota’s GR division wants to use to clean-burning hydrogen in future combustion-powered cars, rather than going all-in on battery electric vehicles.

Despite recently showcasing its first BEV, the FT-Se concept, GR manager Masahito Watanabe told Autocar that the most abundant element in the universe could keep traditional sports cars on the road for years to come.

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“We still think the internal combustion engine has some potential and, as we do so, we will of course be trying to comply with all the applicable rules according to the regions in each country,” he said. “But we don’t want to give up. It’s not over just yet, because if you look at the internal combustion engine, there’s still hydrogen combustion that can be a part of that zero-emission line-up.”

Toyota H2 racing concept

Toyota is already putting hydrogen through its paces in motorsports, demonstrating a GR Yaris rally car, running a GR Corolla in Japan’s Super Taikyu endurance racing series, and has even teased a potential Le Mans competitor in the shape of its GR H2 Racing Concept.

Burning hydrogen in an internal combustion engine emits no carbon dioxide, with mostly just water vapour emerging from the tailpipe. It’s not quite the perfect solution as nitrous oxides are produced, so Toyota would have to find a way to deal with these smog-inducing chemicals.

That’s not the only hurdle facing hydrogen combustion, admitted Watanabe. “We know that the infrastructure is woefully insufficient. This is a common issue across many different countries and we completely appreciate that. What that means is that we won’t be able to commercialise hydrogen combustion engines right at this moment. But look at some of the movements put forward in Europe, the US and Japan. And this isn’t just governments; private companies are working towards increasing the hydrogen infrastructure. What we want to do in the end is provide as many options as possible to our customers. So we will continue to develop the hydrogen internal combustion engine as part of that.”

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