Toyota is adamant that achieving zero emissions can be done without necessarily killing the internal combustion engine. While some automakers such as Porsche are investing in the development and production of synthetic fuels, the Japanese giant has a different approach. It wants to adapt the ol' ICE and make it run on hydrogen. In fact, the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine of the GR Yaris and GR Corolla has already been tested in motorsport events.
It's not just hot hatches that have received a hydrogen-burning ICE since the HiAce has also been modified to run on hydrogen rather than gasoline or diesel. Pictured below, the utilitarian van has entered a pilot program in Australia where a variety of local companies will use the vehicles in real-world conditions. At the heart of the workhorse is a turbocharged V6 engine borrowed from the Land Cruiser (LC300). Output is routed to the rear axle via a ten-speed automatic transmission.
Speaking at the Hydrogen HiAce's Aussie launch, Toyota said the technology would also make sense in the Land Cruiser as well as other large vehicles meant to tow and haul big cargo. In an interview with Drive, Hydrogen Factory President Mitsumasa Yamagata said: "There are possibilities to adapt [hydrogen-fueled engines] into those big vehicles, including Land Cruiser. This advantage of the technology can be utilized for those vehicles including [those that are used for heavy] towing and [heavy] loading."
Toyota has been working on hydrogen-fueled combustion engines since 2017 and introduced the tech four years later when a Corolla Sport competed in four rounds of the Super Taikyu series. In the HiAce, the ICE is drastically detuned since it only makes 161 hp (120 kW) and 354 Nm (261 lb-ft). In the regular Land Cruiser LC300 – which isn't offered in the United States – that 3.4-liter twin-turbo V6 produces 409 hp and 650 Nm (479 lb-ft), so you're sacrificing a lot of oomph when transitioning from gasoline to hydrogen.
The HiAce boasts three hydrogen tanks like the ones used by the second-generation Mirai. Interestingly, Toyota says it's not only looking to optimize packaging to boost fuel storage but is also tweaking the combustion process and even exploring the possibility to add hybrid technology.
In the HiAce, the internal combustion engine is up front while the hydrogen fuel tanks are mounted underneath the floor. These have enough juice for a limited range of less than 124 miles (200 kilometers), which isn't ideal but you got to start somewhere, right?