Why Toyota built a hydrogen race car and what it means for the future

Rodolfo Schellin

This year’s Fuji 24 Hrs stamina race saw a little bit of an outlier on the starting off grid. Amid the several Nissan GT-Rs and Toyota GR Supras in the discipline was a tiny Corolla hatchback. At very first look, this wouldn’t appear to be a considerable car to watch. But a nearer seem reveals its intrigue — it is powered by hydrogen.

The very first vehicle we feel of when thinking about Toyotas and hydrogen is generally the Mirai gas-mobile vehicle now in its second technology. However, it is essential to note that this Corolla Activity (the Japanese-market place name for what we in the U.S. know as the Corolla Hatchback) is not equipped with a hydrogen gas mobile, a sophisticated system that breaks down hydrogen to crank out electric power. This Corolla as an alternative takes advantage of the exact same one.6-liter, a few-cylinder internal combustion engine as Toyota’s firecracker GR Yaris which is unavailable in the United States. The only modifications to make it run on hydrogen ended up the gas shipping and delivery method, gas injectors and ignition method.

In truth, the group could have run a GR Yaris as an alternative, but using the Corolla’s added cargo capacity authorized them to stuff 4 tanks of compressed hydrogen in the rear. These tanks ended up plucked from the Mirai (two ended up modified for this software and two ended up inventory), and they ended up secured in a distinctive brace made of carbon fiber strengthened plastic and built to stand up to higher-power crashes must the worst occur.

Some of the hydrogen parts, like the piping and gas management method, had presently been formulated and ended up transplanted straight from the Mirai as nicely. There was no will need to reinvent the wheel. On the other hand, the gas injection method is new.

“Controlling combustion was our major challenge,” the Corolla’s main engineer, Naoyuki Sakamoto, explained to us through a movie contact from Japan. “Hydrogen combusts extremely fast and that often brings about pre-ignition.”

The gas injection method was formulated in conjunction with Denso. “They have been a big assistance for us,” Sakamoto mentioned.

The Fuji 24 Hrs was 2021’s 3rd spherical in Japan’s very long-operating Tremendous Taikyu stamina collection. Irrespective of a slate of big name drivers like former F1 and Le Mans driver Kamui Kobayashi, SuperGT wheelmen Hiroaki Ishiura, Takuto Iguchi and Takamitsu Matsui, and even Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda himself, the Corolla ran for only 12 several hours, completing 358 laps or one,634 km (one,015 miles). The successful Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 place far more than double that distance under its belt.

Tremendous Taikyu veteran Masahiro Sasaki place down a quickest lap time of 2 minutes, 4 seconds. According to main engineer Sakamoto, that’s fairly fantastic, thinking about a Toyota 86 averages close to 2 minutes flat. Drivers described that the Corolla drove far more or less like a typical race car, but that the more quickly-burning hydrogen gas made the throttle a little bit far more responsive.

On the other hand, that more quickly burning gas was also the car’s downfall. With a combustion price of seven occasions that of gasoline, the car could only run about 10 laps in advance of it necessary to be topped off. The Corolla refueled 35 occasions, with five-6 minutes used gassing up at every single instance. Including for driver alterations and other routines, the car used a full of 4 several hours in the pits. The Corolla also encountered electrical issues not associated to the hydrogen gas method.

“The objective of our entry is not racing,” Sakamoto explained. “We ended up frequently checking knowledge from gas injectors and such, retaining the engine and cellular refueling.” That final merchandise referred to distinctive hydrogen tanker trucks that had to be introduced in and staged in a distinctive space just exterior of pit lane.

So with overall performance advantages that don’t outweigh the setbacks, why would Toyota expend the time and exertion to build a hydrogen-fueled race car? This appears to be particularly fruitless in the U.S., in which battery electrics have taken the direct although pundits query Toyota’s dogged devotion to hydrogen, in FCVs and otherwise.

“Plug-in hybrids and battery electrics are just portion of the option, and Toyota believes it wants to provide many selections,” Sakamoto explained to us. “We will need to review a further possibility of acquiring carbon neutrality working with internal combustion engines.”

“In Japan, fossil fuels are employed to make electric power,” he continued. “The hydrogen we employed, nevertheless, is produced from a solar plant.”

He went on to level out that even if battery electrics are the supreme end level, there are several components of the environment that will rely on ICEs for several many years to come. Sakamoto even prompt that a gasoline-hydrogen combo gas could possibly be a likelihood for mass-production vehicles. Existing ICE cars could possibly even be equipped to be transformed to use hydrogen gas, as very long as the gas tank, gas shipping and delivery, and injectors are adjusted.

For now, he only is familiar with is that Toyota should go after all avenues and possibilities to attain carbon neutrality as soon as attainable.

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