Toyota is continuing to develop its hydrogen-powered internal-combustion engine technology through the lens of motorsport, but has now revealed its most road-going concept yet.
The Toyota Corolla Cross H2 concept largely looks like a regular Corolla Cross SUV but has the powertrain of a race car.
The race car in question is the hydrogen-powered GR Corolla H2 that has been competing in the Super Taikyu endurance racing series in Japan since May 2021 by the Rookie Racing division of Toyota Gazoo Racing.
Although this Corolla Cross H2 concept uses the same fuel source as the Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV), the two are different.
The Mirai FCEV uses a chemical reaction in its fuel cells to generate energy and is therefore an electric vehicle of sorts, whereas the Corolla Cross H2 concept has an internal-combustion engine using hydrogen as the fuel.
Powering the hydrogen-powered Corolla Cross concept is a 1.6-litre ‘G16E-GTS’ turbocharged inline-three-cylinder engine that’s very similar to the petrol-powered GR Yaris and GR Corolla models but has a modified fuel supply and injection system for the hydrogen fuel source.
The concept also features the same high-pressure hydrogen storage tanks and refuelling process as the Mirai.
Toyota hasn’t disclosed power or torque figures for the Corolla Cross H2 concept, nor does it mention how fast it can do the 0-100km/h sprint.
Toyota has been developing its hydrogen combustion engine technology since 2017 and thanks in part to its involvement in the Super Taikyu endurance racing series with the GR Corolla H2 racer, it claims hydrogen combustion power has increased by 24 per cent and torque by 33 per cent, making it on par with a conventional petrol engine.
Range has also been extended by around 30 per cent and refuelling time has been reduced by five minutes to one and a half minutes.
The Japanese carmaker didn’t seemingly have racing pedigree in mind with this Corolla Cross H2 concept, as it was developed to showcase that hydrogen-combustion technology can transport five people and their luggage.
Toyota says the Corolla Cross H2 concept will soon being winter testing in northern Japan, alongside ongoing digital development.
The Japanese carmaker claims it’s currently 40 per cent along the path to commercialisation of products vehicles like the Corolla Cross H2 concept.
It believes it’s not yet possible to say if the technology will reach maturity for road cars, but there is a clear future for it in motorsports.
Toyota says the key merits of hydrogen combustion technology include the ability to leverage existing existing internal-combustion engine technologies, quick refuelling times, and reduction in the use and necessity of elements like lithium and nickel.
Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe in an interview with Automotive News earlier in the year dismissed Toyota’s plans for hydrogen-fuelled internal-combustion engine, saying it would not become mainstream.
The company did just announce it’s going to be building a plug-in hydrogen fuel cell variant of the new-generation CR-V in the US from 2024 though.
Rather than focusing exclusively on electric vehicles (EVs), Toyota is known for currently offering, exploring and developing a range of hybrid, battery-electric (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric (PHEVs), hydrogen fuel-cell electric (FCEVS), and hydrogen-combustion engine vehicles.
The automaker’s UK arm said this week it would make prototypes of the Toyota HiLux ute with a hydrogen fuel cell electric (FCEV) drivetrain, and aims to put the zero tailpipe emission ute into small-scale production.