While the rest of the world focuses on hybrids and battery electric vehicles, Toyota is still investing in hydrogen power. They even have a mass-produced, hydrogen-powered car in the form of the Mirai.
Toyota plans to take hydrogen technology even further. The Japanese marque announced that it is has built a new hydrogen engine. However, it won’t be fitted on a road car. Instead, it will be used in a race car based on the Corolla Sport. Yes, Toyota is going racing with hydrogen fuel cell technology. And it’s not just any race either. It’s the highly competitive Super Taikyu Series in Japan.
Interestingly, Toyota specifically said hydrogen engine, not fuel cell. For reference, FCEVs like the Mirai uses a fuel cell where hydrogen chemically reacts with oxygen in the air to produce electricity. The electricity then drives the electric motors. In comparison, hydrogen engines generate power through the combustion of hydrogen. Essentially, it’s an internal combustion engine that uses hydrogen instead of petrol. As a result, it emits zero C02 when in use.
The hydrogen-powered race car will make its race debut at Round 3 of the 2021 Super Taikyu Series this coming May. Toyota did not disclose specific details about the engine in question. But, they did say it will be a three-cylinder turbocharged mill with a 1,618 cc displacement. It will be fueled using hydrogen produced at the Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field in Fukushima Prefecture. Aside from promoting the use of hydrogen, doing so will also help the revitalization of the Tohoku region following the earthquake/tsunami disaster 10 years ago.
As they say, there’s no better testbed than racing, which is why Toyota decided to introduce the hydrogen engine in Super Taikyu first. The learnings might just trickle down to production models in the future, assuming it is successful.
Here's to hoping that Toyota's hydrogen-powered engine makes an impact come race day.