Toyota Gamble On Hydrogen

Tue 16th Nov 2021

While the majority of global automotive brands are banking their future on electric vehicles, Japanese manufacturer Toyota is refusing to be diverted down one route and is keeping all options open, including hydrogen.

The world’s most profitable car brand attended the COP26 climate conference last week, but at the same time they were testing an experimental hydrogen car on a track in Japan, a prototype it is hoped will save millions of jobs.

The Toyota Yaris, which was driven around the Okayama International Circuit by company president Akio Toyoda, was powered by a converted Corolla engine running on hydrogen. By demonstrating that hydrogen is a viable alternative to fossil fuels, Toyota hope to extend the life of internal combustion engines.

“The enemy is carbon, not internal combustion engines. We shouldn’t just focus on one technology but make use of the technologies we already possess,” Toyoda said at the track. “Carbon neutrality is not about one having a single choice, but about keeping options open.”

Toyota have not completely ruled out electric vehicles, they expect to see 15 new all-electric models by 2025 and have invested $13.5 billion to explore battery production.

Many companies have demonstrated hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, but Toyota’s approach takes hydrogen as a fuel and places it into the engine. While the main byproduct of this combustion method is water, there is still a small amount of engine burn, around 2 per cent of a normal petrol engine.

Dispute the scepticism from some, analysts are making bold predictions that the multi-billion dollar conversion to EV might be seen as a passing fad by future generations.

“If the adoption of carbon-free fuels happens quickly, that could bring the first battery EV boom to an end,” said Takeshi Miyao, an analyst at auto industry research company Carnorama.