Toyota sees a future for hydrogen in vehicles, not just as fuel cells for electric motors. The company has unveiled the Corolla Cross H2 concept, which is equipped with an internal combustion engine designed to burn hydrogen instead of gasoline or diesel.
It’s not just any combustion engine, either. Under the hood of this white and blue prototype is a version of the 1.6-liter turbocharged three-cylinder used in the GR Corolla. If you follow Toyota in the racing scene, you’ll know that the Japanese automaker is running a hydrogen-powered GR Corolla in the Super Taikyo Endurance Series. Toyota also made a demonstration in the World Rally Championship (WRC) with the hydrogen fueled GR Yaris H2. Now, the experience gained through motorsports is being transformed into an on-road application in the Corolla Cross H2 Concept.
What kind of experience are we talking about? Toyota says it has increased hydrogen combustion power by 24 percent, bringing it to the same power level as a comparable gasoline engine. Range is also 30 percent longer, and refueling times in racing applications are reduced by just a minute and a half. That’s still an eternity in a race, but for a small five-passenger crossover, it’s a blink of an eye.
Of course, one doesn’t simply dump hydrogen into the tank of a typical Corolla Cross and call it a day. The H2 Concept features a special tank that uses experience gained from the production-spec Mirai sedan, with the engine using high-pressure hydrogen direct injection tech. Real-world testing of the concept is underway, with winter testing in northern Japan set to begin soon.
It’s all part of Toyota’s move toward carbon neutrality, a process the automaker believes won’t be achieved through battery-electric vehicles alone. Development of an electric Toyota Hilux prototype using a hydrogen fuel cell was recently announced, using second-generation fuel cell technology from Mirai.
In addition, Toyota will continue to develop hybrid and plug-in hybrid models as well as electric vehicles for its future lineup. However, the automaker says it’s currently not possible to say for sure whether hydrogen systems will eventually see maturity in road-going vehicles.