When we think about hydrogen engines we think of electricity, and we naturally compare the fuel to batteries. Toyota however has thought things a tad bit different as it seems, and is soon to debut a new powertrain that uses hydrogen as the fuel for a novel internal combustion engine. Thus, hydrogen can serve as an alternative to petrol, but this comes with a whole set of “whys” and “hows”, so here’s how Toyota envisions it.
The new engine will be put in a sporty new Corolla sold only in Japan to help test the feasibility and performance of this new approach at low production volumes. The engine uses the same injection systems and fuel supply assembly that are used on regular petrol engines, although there will be some mix rate and flow rate adjustments as expected.
The reason for this experiment, and the benefits according to Toyota, is that the combustion of the hydrogen happens quicker, while also emitting less NOx and other combustion by-products. This should theoretically make the engine more responsive, easier to rev up, featuring less internal inertia, and generally having a more versatile performance across the range.
In terms of fuel consumption, we cannot compare “apples to oranges” here, obviously, but we can tell you that Toyota is planning to use compressed hydrogen fuel, and the engine comprises three cylinders having a total capacity of 1618cc.
This venture is very similar to something that BMW tried back in 2007 with the “Hydrogen 7”, but that one was a hybrid, so it wasn’t optimized. Also, the fact that the engine was a 6.0 liter V12 made it some kind of a hefty beast, rather than a nimble sports car made to take advantage of the newest tech.
BMW’s approach failed, and Hydrogen 7 was plagued by numerous problems, to the point that a BBC commentator called it “a cynical marketing ploy.” Hopefully, Toyota will get past all that, introducing a new possibility for the automotive world.