Kon’nichiwa, Hydrogen-Powered ICE-san!

A few weeks ago, Toyota unveiled that it has been working on a hydrogen-powered ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) and unveiled it in the form of a 1.6L three-cylinder with some similarities to the engine in the GR Yaris. It currently resides in the front of a Toyota Corolla Hatch race car and in the video it sounded pretty good – like a normal engine with a custom exhaust. It was also driven by none other than the CEO of Toyota, Mr Akio Toyoda – the great grandson of Mr Toyota/Toyoda himself. They haven’t released any specs on the engine in terms of power, torque, RPM or anything like that, but if it has ‘similarities’ with the GR Yaris’ three-potter, then it’s pretty nippy.

Toyota also revealed that they’ve been working on the engine for the past six years and to prove its viability, it raced in a 24-hour endurance race and didn’t do bad at all. Imagine you could have a bigger engine, like a V8, and have it grumble whilst driving around all the while emitting water out the back. Imagine it, massive automotive festivals with cars revving and racing and making noises, but it doesn’t hurt Johnny Polarbear at all. That would be awesome!

I also did some research on hydrogen-powered cars – not FCEV’s (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles) – and realised that there are quite a few attempts. The coolest of which I found is the BMW Hydrogen 7, an E65 760i LCI that’s 6.0L V12 runs on both petrol and liquid hydrogen. It was limited to around 200 cars and if you wanted to lease one, you had to be influential and have media coverage around you. It also made much less power and much less torque than its normal 760i sibling.

Weirdly, the engine kept its 13.4L/100km fuel economy using the petrol tank, but when you used the hydrogen, it did a whopping 50L/100km! And it only had a tank equivalent to 100L of hydrogen, meaning you could only drive 200km on the hydrogen. Strangely, that’s not why the car was a failure. It flopped because at that time, finding a fuelling station that would sell you hydrogen was an enormously difficult task. It would’ve been easier to find the Duesenberg Coupé Simone!

Today – as pointed out by James May when he sold his Toyota Mirai a few months ago – it is still difficult to find a hydrogen fuelling station. The other problem with hydrogen is that it is difficult to make and keep it liquid. It needs to be pressurised to many atmospheres and kept at -253°C, otherwise it would just float away. The good thing about hydrogen is that it is the most abundant thing on our planet, so even if it does float away, we’ll be able to get it back later – unlike petrol.

I have never been a big fan of Toyota cars – including the legendary Supra – as most of my family only buy Toyota (although one bought a Land Rover recently after a 7-car Toyota streak and I am massively impressed). I’m not denying that they’re great cars – in fact they make some of the best and most reliable cars in the world. They’re just a little bit boring the last couple of years (bar the new Supra, GT/GR86 and GR Yaris). However, if Toyota is the saviour of the Internal Combustion Engine through use of liquid hydrogen, then by all means, buy as much Toyotas as you possibly can.

And to all other automakers, invest in research and development of Toyota’s hydrogen ICE! If this works, then the future may not be silent after all…

Help stop the hate – adopt a (hopefully hydrogen-powered in the future) V8!

©2021 Michael De Kock 

Michael de Kock is a Psychology graduate, busy doing a National Certificate in Motor Mechanics to get more skilled, because he struggles to get a job in this day and age. Can you believe that? Utterly ridiculous…