This summer, Toyota decided that it was going to take up hydrogen racing. The company, is after all, pretty invested in the hydrogen ecosystem. The difference this time, though, is that the hydrogen was being burned in a combustion engine in a Corolla Sport rather than being used in a fuel cell. It wasn't necessarily the most efficient way of doing things, but, according to its announcement Thursday, that didn't stop Toyota.
Now, Toyota is expanding its hydrogen race car program to include the much-loved and extremely rowdy GR Yaris. The cool thing is that rather than move to some exotic powertrain for the switch to hydrogen, Toyota's engineers modified the zany three-cylinder turbocharged engine that the GR Yaris already had.
So, if burning hydrogen for fuel isn't superefficient, why do it in a race car? Sound, friends. Sound. Many car enthusiasts -- even ones like us at Roadshow who love electric cars -- lament the loss of the sound of internal combustion engines being pushed to their limit. Burning nice, clean hydrogen allows racing to retain that sound while also being almost totally emissions-free. Is it practical for everyday road use? Nope, at least not yet, but we like where Toyota is going with this.
Now, we've established that the engine in the hydrogen GR Yaris has been modified, but of course, if you're going to be using hydrogen as a fuel source, your regular ol' gas tank won't work. Luckily, the hydrogen storage tanks used in the Mirai and the equipment needed to fill them will work as is.
We already talked about hydrogen being a clean-burning fuel, but another characteristic makes it appealing in a combustion engine, and that's the rate at which it burns. The combustion characteristics of hydrogen are different from slower-burning gasoline. This allows for different engine tuning and increased responsiveness from the engine, which Toyota is taking advantage of in its Super Taikyu Corolla Sport race car.
Seeing something like this in a production car is, let's face it, probably not likely given the already challenging infrastructure issues of using hydrogen as a fuel, but that doesn't mean that the idea isn't cool and that we aren't rooting for it. In fact, we really hope that the other big player in automotive hydrogen tech (Hyundai) gets in on the fun.