Here we are in 2022 and as you and I both probably know by now, the internal combustion engine is kind of on its way out. More and more companies are investing in electric vehicles and drivetrains, as well as the infrastructure needed to support those electric vehicles. We’re this trend across markets, from sedans, trucks, motorcycles, planes, and even into the commercial vehicle market with semi-trucks.
Really it’s only a matter of time until gas-powered die, or at least that’s what I thought until I saw the news of what Toyota has been working on, which is a 5.0L V8 engine powered by hydrogen rather than gas, meaning it outputs zero emissions and could possibly be a viable alternative to electric cars, or can it?
Let’s dive in and talk about why Toyota has developed this engine, where they’ll go from here, and a whole lot more.
Toyota and Yamaha Team Up
So, to start I want to mention that Toyota is not doing this on their own, not in the slightest. In fact, they’re developing this engine with the help of Yamaha. You might be wondering why Yamaha, the company that seemingly makes everything?
The reason they chose to work with Yamaha is actually simpler than you might think: they have a long-standing relationship with them. Some of you might remember the LFA, Lexus’ supercar that never really took off and cost Toyota so much money to develop, that each one sold was at a net loss rather than a profit.
Yamaha helped Toyota with the development of the V10 engine under the hood of the LFA, but if you go back even further, you’ll see that Yamaha and Toyota worked together on the 1JZ. There are people all over the internet that claim the 2JZ was also co-developed between Yamaha and Toyota, but there’s no actual proof of that claim anywhere, although the 2JZ head is very similar to the 1JZ head that Yamaha was involved with.
Anyways. You can actually go further back than that all the way to the 1960s when Toyota and Yamaha worked together on the Toyota on the 2000GT. This isn’t an article about their longstanding relationship, so I won’t go into more detail, but simply put, they have worked together a bunch before, and it made sense in this context.
The Hydrogen-Powered GR Yaris
Although this 5.0L V8 hydrogen engine made a ton of news and it’s very interesting, it’s actually not a new concept for Toyota. In fact, you can rewind the clock to 2021 when Toyota announced it was building a hydrogen engine to be showcased in the GR Yaris. Of course, the GR Yaris was kind of the perfect application to show that hydrogen engines aren’t just for the weenies that love great fuel economy and saving the environment, but also for the people who love going fast.
The engine in the GR Yaris showcase car with basically just a G16E-GTS, which we’ve made an article on recently, I’d highly recommend you check that out. They pretty much took that engine and modified the injection system for hydrogen fuel rather than gasoline. In fact, the experimental hydrogen-powered Corolla Sport had already been competing in the Super Taikyu race series in Japan since earlier in 2021 under the Rookie Racing arm of Toyota GAZOO Racing.
The New 5.0L V8 Hydrogen Engine
So, Toyota was getting pretty experienced with hydrogen engines from using them in a few racecars, so it was time to scale it up to a larger engine, which is where this new hydrogen-powered 5.0L V8 comes into play, and much like the smaller hydrogen-powered 3-cylinder G16E-GTS we just talked about, this 5.0L V8 is based almost entirely on an existing Toyota engine, which is the 2UR-GSE.
Now, the 2UR is actually used in more than just the RC-F, you’ll also find it in the IS-F, GS-F, LC500, and IS500. It’s an all-aluminum, dual overhead V8 with four valves per cylinder. Funny enough, the heads are actually designed by Yamaha and have some pretty cool features including titanium intake valves, high-lift cams, a dual-length intake manifold, dual VVT-iE, and D4-S injection, which is simply port and direct injection combined together.
The based engine in the RC-F outputs 467hp and 389lb-ft of torque, which is pretty impressive for a naturally aspirated V8. For reference, Ford’s 5.0L Coyote V8 engine in the Mustang 450hp and 410lb-ft of torque.
Of course, with this new hydrogen-powered version of this engine, they had to make changes. Most notably, they made changes to the injectors, heads, and intake manifold. The strangest change to me is that they reversed the flow of the heads. In all these photos shown by Toyota, this engine has a hot-V design, meaning the exhaust manifold in the V of the engine rather than the intake manifold being there, which means this engine will have two intake manifolds: one per side.
Yamaha worked hard on the 8-to-1 exhaust manifold and it’s supposed to produce an incredible exhaust note, but unfortunately, I can’t show that to you because they’re yet to show this engine in video or sound, so we’ll just have to wait for that to see how good it actually sounds.
In terms of performance, they’re claiming 455 at 6,800rpm and 398lb-ft of torque at 3,600rpm, so it’s a tiny bit down compared to the 2UR-FSE it’s based on, but that’s still a crazy amount of power naturally aspirated, especially considering it outputs zero emissions.
Why Bother with Hydrogen?
You might be wondering what the point of the whole thing is? Like, why bother trying to push hydrogen when the infrastructure and electric cars already have a massive lead? And it’s because Toyota actually wants to keep the internal combustion engine alive, or at least they say.
And it’s actually not just Toyota and Yamaha. It’s also Mazda, Kawasaki, and Subaru, who have all pledged to continue investing in combustion engines and expanding fuel options beyond gasoline or diesel.
Yamaha’s president is pretty vocal about his belief in hydrogen and the combustion engine long-term. He said, “Hydrogen engines house the potential to be carbon neutral while keeping our passion for the internal combustion engine alive at the same time.”
“Teaming up with companies with different corporate cultures and areas of expertise as well as growing the number of partners we have is how we want to lead the way into the future.”
“Hydrogen engines have an innately friendly feel that makes them easy to use even without resorting to electronic driving aids. Everyone who came to test drive the prototype car would start off somewhat skeptical but emerged from the car with a big smile on their face at the end.”
It’s all part of becoming carbon neutral companies, but is the effort worth it? Will this ever come to market? Maybe. Will anyone ever buy it? Probably not. If you look at previous attempts for hydrogen-powered cars, it’s clear that there is not a demand for them. To put it simply, if you want to disrupt the automobile industry, you have to provide something that is objectively better in almost every way as compared to the existing products, and hydrogen doesn’t do that.
Hydrogen engines are not objectively in the large majority of categories. Really, the only categories a hydrogen engine is superior to a gas engine is with emissions output and potentially cost of fueling. Outside of that, it offers the same amount of power and exactly the same maintenance, making it pretty unappealing.
Electric, on the other hand, is almost silent, makes a ton of power, is easy to drive, eliminates almost all maintenance costs, and more.
It Probably Won’t Catch On
As much as you and I both love tinkering on cars, fixing them, making them faster, breaking them, and then repeating the process, at the end of the day, electric cars are simply better. Electric cars might not be objectively better in every single way right now in 2022, but they will be in the near future.
Really, the only thing stopping electric cars from being vastly better in every way is the range and how long it takes to recharge them, but that’s quickly changing and five or ten years from now, I have a hard time imagining that electric cars won’t take over as the most popular cars being built and sold.
So, although it’s awesome to see Toyota and Yamaha, as well other companies, investing in hydrogen engines and trying to make it a viable alternative, there are few scenarios I can think of that will let hydrogen engines ultimately beat out electric motors used in automobiles.