Toyota sees a future for hydrogen in vehicles, and not just as fuel cells for electric motors. The company has unveiled the Corolla Cross H2 Concept, equipped with an internal combustion engine designed to burn hydrogen instead of petrol or diesel.
It’s not just any combustion engine, either. Under the hood of this white and blue prototype is a 1.6-liter turbocharged three-cylinder version used in the GR Corolla. If you follow Toyota on the racing scene, you’ll know that the Japanese automaker is running the hydrogen-powered GR Corolla in its Super Taikyu endurance series. Toyota also conducted a demonstration run at the World Rally Championship (WRC) with the hydrogen-fueled GR Yaris H2. Now, the experience gained through motorsport is transitioning to road applications in the Corolla Cross H2 Concept.
What kind of experience are we talking about? Toyota says it increases hydrogen-burning power by 24 percent, bringing it to power levels similar to comparable gasoline engines. Range is also up by 30 percent, and refueling time in racing applications is down to just one and a half minutes. It’s still an eternity in racing, but for a small five-seater crossover, it’s just the blink of an eye.
Of course, one doesn’t just dump hydrogen into the tank of an ordinary Corolla Cross and stop. The H2 Concept carries a special tank using experience gained from the production-spec Mirai sedan, with the engine using high-pressure hydrogen direct injection technology. Real-world evaluation of the concept is ongoing, with winter testing in northern Japan to begin soon.
It’s all part of Toyota’s move toward carbon neutrality, a process the automaker believes will not be achieved through battery-electric vehicles alone. Development of an electric prototype of the Toyota Hilux using hydrogen fuel cells was recently announced, taking advantage of second-generation fuel cell technology borrowed from Mirai.
In addition, Toyota will continue to develop hybrid and plug-in hybrid models as well as electric vehicles for its product lineup in the future. However, the automaker says it is currently impossible to say for sure whether hydrogen systems will eventually reach maturity in road vehicles.