Toyota conducted on Monday (25) the first tests of its internal combustion engine powered by hydrogen. Although it intends to use the technology in production models, the manufacturer first started work on race cars .
Unlike hydrogen-powered electric vehicles , which use a battery to power the engine through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, this propellant generates energy through combustion. It actually works in a similar way to a gasoline engine: the fuel cell is filled with hydrogen gases (instead of gasoline), whose mixture is compressed by the pistons, where the energy for the wheels comes from. The differences are in the injection and exhaust systems — in addition to not having the need for very heavy batteries, as in hybrid cars or 100% electric.
“We want to propose various solutions to meet the regional needs [of every part of the world],” Toyota Chief Engineer Naoyuki Sakamoto said at an online press conference on Monday.
One of the main challenges for Toyota in engine production is to develop an injection system that is capable of handling hydrogen — which burns seven times faster than oil — and, at the same time, achieve a steady burn.
The car used in the tests was a Yaris with a 1.6 engine prepared for touring racing. Two hydrogen tanks, made of carbon fiber, were installed in the rear seat area of the vehicle. The Japanese manufacturer did not disclose the mileage traveled.
In the first half, Toyota tried the hydrogen engine in two races: the Fuji 24 Hours on May 21 and the Autopolis 24 Hours on July 31. The used car, however, was a Corolla Sport (highlighted in the main image) .
BMW has tried the alternative before
It is worth remembering that Toyota is not the first to experiment with a hydrogen-powered combustion engine in the automotive industry. In the 2000s, BMW tested the mixture on Hydrogen 7 , but it didn’t work very well, and the German company at the time was accused of greenwashing — or, in other words, false environmental marketing .
In any case, hydrogen offers some propulsion advantages. While electric batteries require a set of minerals in production, hydrogen is abundant in the environment and easily stored and transported. Furthermore, gas can be created from water with electrolysis or even from solar energy.
Toyota is producing hydrogen at a geothermal plant in southern Japan. The manufacturer has not stipulated when hydrogen engine technology will hit the market and has recognized the need for further development to build the engine at scale.