What are the performance, advantages, and weaknesses of hydrogen engines?A ray of light for motor sports … Racing Corolla runs in Fuji 24-hour joint test

President Akio Toyoda “Let’s race with this!”

When I thought about something, the news from Toyota that there was a “announcement / interview about motor sports activities” was amazing. The company is working on the technological development of a hydrogen engine, and as part of this, it will introduce a racing vehicle equipped with it to the Fuji 24-hour race to be held from May 21st to 23rd.

April 28, about a week after the announcement on April 22. At the Fuji 24-hour joint test held at Fuji Speedway, the machine was immediately seen. The Corolla-based machine, which was entrusted to the founder Rookie Racing by President Akio Toyoda, ran on the racing course.

[Image]What’s happening inside the room?Hydrogen tank is placed in the rear seat

In the first place, the hydrogen engine was being developed as a prior art that was not premised on the market. However, when President Akio Toyoda, who tasted the vehicle on which it was mounted, said, “Let’s race with this!”, Things started to move right under the sudden turn. By the way, the president’s test drive was at the end of last year, and it was said that the development was actually carried out in four months.

The hydrogen engine is based on GR Yaris’ 1.6L turbo

Unlike FCVs (fuel cell vehicles), which use the same hydrogen, hydrogen engines are used in internal combustion engines instead of gasoline to burn hydrogen. The contents are nothing special. The hydrogen engine this time is actually just a change in the injectors and plugs of the in-line 3-cylinder 1.6L turbo unit loaded on the GR Yaris, and the fuel handling. The high-pressure hydrogen tank is inherited from MIRAI, and in that sense, it is a machine that makes good use of the technology cultivated so far.

The reason why the vehicle became a Corolla was that it was intended to appeal to the car in the middle of the passenger car, but the biggest reason is probably the large interior space. Looking inside, the rear seats have been removed and the roll cages have been stretched around, and inside it, a total of four high-pressure hydrogen tanks fixed to CFRP carriers are mounted.

It is said that this layout, which is to maintain sufficient safety in the event of a crash, was decided after consultation with the FIA. In addition, all safety requirements were determined by such a process. This is the world’s first hydrogen-engined racing car to run. The FIA ​​also seems to be looking at this project with great interest.

What are the performance, advantages, and weaknesses of hydrogen engines?

Now, what kind of performance does this hydrogen engine achieve, what advantages do it have, and what are its weaknesses and drawbacks? First of all, it is said that the power and torque are almost the same as the normal GR Yaris. Hydrogen contains less energy than gasoline, for example, but has the advantage of being flammable and having a high combustion rate. If high-speed combustion becomes possible, the response will be better and torque will be generated. It should also be advantageous for high rpm.

On the other hand, the problem is that it burns too much, and if you are not good at it, it will ignite in an unexpected place. How to control the timing of this combustion is the key to the hydrogen engine, but according to Toyota, the direct injection technology cultivated over many years is alive and well.

The lap time is measured at hand and is about 2 minutes 4 to 5 seconds per lap. It is almost the same as the ST5 class vehicle that fits, etc., but considering that the weight of the vehicle is heavy, it is not bad at all.

Currently, the biggest problem is fuel economy. The total capacity of the high-pressure hydrogen tank is 7.34 kg, which exceeds MIRAI’s 5.6 kg. However, this machine is said to have 12 to 13 consecutive laps. Since the total length of the Fuji Speedway is 4.563km, it means that it can only run about 60km for 13 laps. Approximately 8km per kg. FCV’s MIRAI runs roughly 100km per kg.

However, that was known from the beginning, and at the first press conference, President Akio Toyoda said, “It looks like it will be an endurance race in the pits.” In fact, a 24-hour race will likely require nearly 50 pit stops. For reference, the ST5 class Demio Diesel used to make about 70 laps in a row in a 45L fuel tank. The difference is large.

By the way, in this race, a mobile hydrogen station will be installed in the paddock, and filling will be done here. The layout of this area was also decided in consultation with the FIA.

There is no doubt that fuel efficiency will increase further if knowledge about combustion is accumulated. In fact, the fact that hydrogen is flammable means that it is easy to lean the fuel. There is still a lot of room for development here. In fact, it seems that it will continue to evolve before the actual race.

Why hydrogen engine now?Light on motorsport

But why is Toyota developing a hydrogen engine and putting it into the race? One aspect is the proposal of one possibility for achieving carbon neutrality, which is currently the biggest challenge for automobiles. It’s not just about making everything EV, but thinking about more possibilities.

It can be said that the reason for training it in the race without keeping it at the laboratory level is to speed up the development. In fact, I was able to run on the circuit, and I was able to reach a level where the durability for 24 hours was good enough in just four months because I had the goal of racing.

When I talk to the development team, they all say that the last four months have been difficult, but in reality their faces are laughing. It must have been a burning time as an engineer. In the first place, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing had the theme of bringing the speed of the motor sports development cycle to commercial vehicles, but it may be said that it is now a sense of speed for Toyota as a whole.

Furthermore, the advent of these vehicles also brightens the future of motorsport. For example, if most of the commercial cars become EVs in the near future, can a race like Super Taikyu be established? What’s more, a 24-hour race … There is a good chance that the racing industry itself will be difficult to exist.

However, if we can continue to fight with engine technology while achieving carbon neutrality in this way, we will not extinguish the fire of motor sports. President Akio Toyoda and racing driver “Morizo” say so with all their might. If you really think about the sustainability of a car, everyone involved in the car must be happy. The philosophy of President Toyota that motor sports is also an important element is maintained here.

As mentioned at the beginning, the race will be held from May 21st to 23rd. And this machine, Morizou, is also scheduled to board. If you are a car enthusiast who is worried or expects the future, please visit the circuit if possible and see how this car actually runs. And I want you to listen to the engine sound.

Oops I forgot to write it. Yes, this hydrogen engine is an internal combustion engine, so naturally it has a sound. Because it burns fast, it makes a nice sound that is slightly higher than a gasoline engine.

There must be many car enthusiasts who are worried that the engine will not blow up and the sound will be unrelated in the age of electrification. But with a hydrogen engine, you won’t lose them.

The first step in a dream for anyone who loves cars, driving and motorsports. The project is still in its infancy, but I would like to keep an eye on future progress.