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Car manufacturers’ attention and investments in electric vehicles may spell doom for the internal combustion engine. EVs are currently the most effective way of achieving carbon neutrality, so the situation is understandable. However, some automakers, including Toyota and Yamaha, are looking into alternatives to retain the positives of the internal combustion engine.

One of these positives is the exhilarating performance and sound produced by some ICEs. Comparatively, EVs are mostly silent on the road, which can be boring. Enter the hydrogen-burning V8 engine that Toyota and Yamaha have partnered to build. If Toyota and Yamaha pull this off, the internal combustion engine may still be around for a couple more decades.

Toyota and Yamaha’s hydrogen-burning v8 engine

A hydrogen engine drive installed in a car
A hydrogen engine | Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

According to Yamaha Motor, the manufacturer has been developing a hydrogen engine for cars for about five years. It was recently commissioned by Toyota to build a hydrogen-burning 5-liter V8 engine.

This follows an announcement by five Japanese automobile companies, including Toyota, Mazda, Subaru, and more, in late 2021 on collaborating to expand the range of fuel options. Achieving carbon neutrality is another goal for the collaborative efforts.

Notably, the V8 isn’t Toyota’s first crack at a hydrogen-burning engine, with MotorTrend reporting that the Japanese car manufacturer was already testing a hydrogen-fueled GR Yaris in 2021.

As for the hydrogen-burning 5.0-liter V8, it’s modeled after the V8 in the Lexus RC F, which is a 472-hp engine with 395 lb-ft of torque. Conversely, the performance metrics for this option are 450 horsepower and about 397 lb-ft of torque.

Hydrogen-burning technology as an alternative to electrification and fossil fuels

The idea of using hydrogen instead of fossil fuels has been around for quite some time. The U.S. Department of Energy even notes that under the 1992 Energy Policy Act, hydrogen is classified as an alternative fuel. Consequently, it’s no surprise that a few car manufacturers have dabbled in creating these types of engines in the past.

Nevertheless, there were some hiccups, as implied by the lack of hydrogen-powered vehicles on modern roads. One is that producing hydrogen by reforming fossil fuels creates carbon emissions, which beats the point of the engine in the first place.

There are other ways to produce hydrogen without carbon emissions, e.g., electrolysis, but they’re ridiculously expensive. That said, more effective and efficient methods for production are also being developed.

Another problem is the low energy density of the final product. Consequently, to produce the same amount of energy, you would need to use a lot more hydrogen compared to other fuels. This is in addition to wastage, as much of the energy produced doesn’t make it to the car’s wheels.

Hydrogen engines also produce toxic Nitrogen Oxide emissions. Nevertheless, the biggest hurdle to hydrogen engines comes in the form of hydrogen fuel cells. They seem to have a much better fuel-to-energy output ratio without toxic emissions.

Furthermore, not much power is lost between the fuel cell and the car’s wheels. Of course, this has shifted attention and research away from hydrogen burning engines until recently. However, it seems Toyota and other car manufacturers have recently reignited their interest in the technology with the 5-liter V8 engine as proof.

Other automakers pursuing similar green alternatives

Other vehicle manufacturers have also tried out hydrogen-burning engines while looking to achieve greener mobility. This should also help them comply with current and upcoming environmental regulations.

BMW, for instance, produced the BMW Hydrogen 7 from 2005 to 2007. However, more recently, the German automaker, alongside other car brands like Porsche and Mclaren, is looking into newer synthetic fuels as an option. However, unlike Toyota and Yamaha’s joint project, it might be a while longer before we can see tangible results.


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