Hydrogen V8 engine here to “keep internal combustion alive”
Designed by Toyota’s engineering partner Yamaha, the new engine is supposed to carve out a place for the electric age, but its environmental credentials remain unproven.
Toyota and its longtime Japanese engineering partner, Yamaha, are working on developing 5.0-liter hydrogen-powered V8 engines, in a bid to keep internal combustion technology alive as electric vehicles gain popularity.
Unlike a hydrogen fuel cell power unit – which combines hydrogen and oxygen atoms to create electricity and drive a motor – the new powertrain is a conventional piston engine, tuned to burn hydrogen instead of gasoline.
Based on the block from a Lexus RC F Coupe (shown below), the naturally aspirated 5.0-litre engine has undergone modifications to its injectors, cylinder heads and intake manifold.
Preliminary tests show a maximum power of 335 kW/540 Nm, according to Yamaha. For reference, in its stock petrol configuration, the same engine sends 351kW/530Nm to the ground.
There are no confirmed plans yet to offer the engine in a production vehicle, and its environmental credentials are yet to be proven. However, foreign reports suggest it could debut in a four-wheel-drive version of the Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series.
Although burning hydrogen does not produce carbon dioxide – one of the main contributors to global warming – it does cause a range of other potentially dangerous emissions, including nitrogen oxide.
Despite this, Toyota and Yamaha remain confident the technology could carve out a place in the increasingly electrified automotive landscape.
“Hydrogen engines have the potential to be carbon neutral while keeping our passion for the internal combustion engine alive,” said Yamaha Motor President Yoshihiro Hidaka.
“I started to see that engines using only hydrogen fuel actually had some really fun and easy to use performance characteristics,” added Takeshi Yamada, an engineer at Yamaha’s Technical Research and Development Center.
“It’s a challenge we can push ourselves into as engineers and I personally want to pursue not just performance, but a new allure for the internal combustion engine that the world has yet to see.”
While Toyota has been criticized for its reluctance to switch to electric cars, the Japanese auto giant recently unveiled a fleet of 12 zero-tailpipe-emission concept vehicles, many of which will hit production in the coming years.