With the world inevitably moving towards an electric future, the death of the internal combustion engine has been highly exaggerated. However, that necessarily might not be the case as the ICE engine is not giving up without a fight. You see, the Volkswagen Group has for some time been exploring the idea of synthetic fuels and they are not the only large company trying to keep the beloved ICE engine alive. Incidentally, synthetic fuels are not our only hope of keeping the ICE engine alive because as it turns out, they can run on hydrogen as well.
Toyota will be running a hydrogen-powered Corolla in an endurance racing series this year. The Japanese carmaker has announced that the Corolla Sport hatchback set to race in the Super Taikyu Series will be powered by a modified version of the inline-three cylinder turbocharged engine that already does duty in the Toyota GR Yaris. However, in this application, the engine will be fueled by compressed hydrogen instead of petrol. Toyota have now released a video of what the engine will sound like and we are now week on our knees. More importantly, it gives us hope.
You may be familiar with hydrogen-based fuel cell electric vehicles but here hydrogen is being used as a fuel for a regular combustion engine. In fact, the process of hydrogen going into the cylinders, being compressed, and exploding is pretty similar to a regular engine, but the combustion does not generate any CO2. It does consume a little bit of engine oil in the process and small amounts of NOx is also emitted, but it’s still a big improvement over petroleum-based fuels. Toyota says this is one of the technologies they are researching with a view to achieve carbon neutrality.
This Corolla is a work-in-progress prototype and the 1.6-liter, turbocharged, three-cylinder engine gets its juice from renewable energy produced at the Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field in Japan. Okay, it's no inline-6 or V8 symphony, but one has to admit the sound is still pretty amazing, more so when you consider this is just a three-pot engine. It does sound bassier and throatier than a regular petrol engine, but the tenor of the engine may be due to the fact that hydrogen is more combustible than regular fuel.
Toyota said in its press release that the engine is more responsive than a regular petrol engine. However, according to racing driver Hiroaki Ishiura, it does feel like a huge change. He says, ""It's not as different as I had expected. It feels like a normal engine. (If I'm not told anything) I'd probably think that this is one normal engine." This Corolla will be raced by the ORC ROOKIE Racing team and will enter its first event next month in the NAPAC Fuji Super TEC 24 Hours Race on May 21-23. In fact, Toyota says motorsports will be a key area of development for fuel and technology for next generation vehicles.