Japanese automaker Toyota fitted racing cars with hydrogen combustion engines and it is using them to test the feasibility of the technology for its commercial vehicles, a report from AP News explains.
Toyota installed a 1.6-liter hydrogen combustion engine in a Toyota Yaris racing car and two hydrogen tanks in the back seat area of the vehicle.
The engines, which burn hydrogen as fuel instead of gasoline, are different to those of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which use hydrogen to generate electricity. Toyota is developing the technology as part of a strategy that involves trying multiple options for cleaner transportation.
Toyota hasn't given any information on whether hydrogen combustion engines might be fitted to commercial vehicles any time soon. The company also acknowledges that the technology currently suffers from limitations regarding range and that a lot of work is needed to improve its chances of reaching road vehicles. Still, the use of hydrogen engines would require only small adjustments — in the fuel piping and injection systems — meaning that there is great potential for uptake.
Elon Musk and other big names debate the potential of hydrogen vehicles
In the past year, big names in the automotive industry have argued over the feasibility of hydrogen-fueled cars. In May, Volkswagen Auto Group CEO Herbert Diess criticized hydrogen vehicle proponents in a tweet and highlighted his backing of electric vehicle technologies. Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed his support for Diess's comments by saying "Diess is right. Hydrogen is a staggeringly dumb form of energy storage for cars. Barely worth considering it for a rocket upper stage, which is its most compelling use."
That hasn't stopped Japan's government from strongly backing the use of hydrogen with its Green Growth Strategy, announced in 2020. Other automakers, such as BMW, are also backing hydrogen, having announced plans for a hydrogen fuel cell SUV by 2022. In June, Toyota itself announced that it had broken set a new world record by driving its hydrogen-fueled Toyota Mirai 623 miles (1,003 km) on one fill of hydrogen fuel. Hydrogen isn't guaranteed to be the answer but, following the IPCC's latest report on climate change, we arguably aren't in a position where we can afford not to test all of the options at our disposal.