Toyota converts GR Yaris to hydrogen to save internal combustion engines and jobs
Toyota is preparing a massive attack on the front of electric vehicles, but does not plan to abandon traditional power plants. Toyota’s plan to "make the internal combustion engine more environmentally friendly" is to convert piston engines to hydrogen. Just as BMW proposed in the mid-2000s, inject H2 into the cylinders and burn it, resulting in almost pure water vapor as exhaust gases. True, in fact, this technology has been used in Japan since the 1970s, it’s just that the experiments of the Bavarian concern are much better known in Europe and America, despite the fact that the hydrogen “seven" has not found practical application. But now they again remembered hydrogen as a fuel.
More precisely, Toyota remembered this in 2017, when it began to look for alternatives to internal combustion engines. And now the result of these studies is presented: a prototype of the hot hatchback GR Yaris H2 with a three-cylinder 1.6 turbo engine, converted to direct hydrogen injection. Structurally, this is the same G16E-GTS engine as in the regular GR Yaris, but its fuel system (tank and refueling mechanism) is unified with the Toyota Mirai hydrogen car. The only difference is that Mirai uses hydrogen in an electrochemical generator to generate electricity and GR Yaris instead of gasoline.
Unfortunately, Toyota does not disclose power, performance, fuel consumption and range. Probably because there is nothing to brag about yet. The results of the hydrogen Corolla, which took part in the 24-hour race at Fuji Speedway in the spring of 2021, speak eloquently enough about the capabilities of this power unit.
This car was equipped with the same engine. This allowed the Corolla to complete 358 laps, or 1634 km, in one day, less than half the distance covered by the marathon winner. The average daily speed was 67 km / h, but the hydrogen car spent only 11 hours 54 minutes directly on the track, the rest of the time the Corolla was in the pits or at a separate service station in the paddock. That is, the average speed in the race is 136 km / h.
Of the 12 hours of downtime, eight were spent on technical issues and safety checks, while the refueling itself took four hours. The tank had to be filled from a special automobile compressor station, which was located outside the pit lane. Throughout the race, Toyota made 35 stops of approximately seven minutes each. Thus, with a full refueling, it was possible to drive less than 50 km.
No typos: fifty kilometers. But this is also not surprising. The efficiency of using hydrogen in an internal combustion engine is about half that of the fuel cells installed on the Mirai. Power is clearly lower than that of a gasoline internal combustion engine. Difficulties with the production, storage and refueling of hydrogen are obvious. What, then, is the significance of Toyota’s experiments?
The press release that accompanied the GR Yaris H2 says that the hydrogen engine, unlike electric motors, sounds and runs like a traditional internal combustion engine, meaning it retains the excitement and spirit of driving a "classic" car. But, of course, Toyota has other reasons. The head of the company Akio Toyoda himself spoke about this in the spring after the race: hydrogen power units will save about a million jobs in the Japanese auto industry.
These locations are threatened by the industry’s rapid transition to electricity, and Toyota feels responsible for the state of the industry. Hydrogen-powered engines, on the one hand, will provide clean exhaust and the transition to zero-emission vehicles, and on the other hand, allow enterprises to more smoothly adapt to the new reality. In addition, vehicles with such a transmission promise to be cheaper than electric vehicles, since they do without expensive batteries and do not require investments in the development of electrical components from scratch.
however, Toyota itself admits that this technology is not yet ready for commercialization, so work will continue. It is said that the ultimate goal could be to use such an engine in future generations of Prius hybrids. But, as Akio Toyoda noted, hydrogen internal combustion engines are not a panacea, but only one of the options for solving the complex environmental problem of the automotive industry. And that’s one reason why Toyota was among four automakers this fall (along with Renault-Nissan, Hyundai-Kia and Volkswagen) that didn’t sign a declaration to end ICE vehicle production at the Glasgow climate summit by 2035.