Toyota’s hydrogen-powered Corolla hatchback becomes the first car ever to finish the 24-hours endurance race, fueled by Hydrogen instead of conventional fuel. Toyota has said it wants to use motorsport to promote hydrogen as a viable alternative to electric cars.
The Corolla at the Fuji circuit made use of compressed hydrogen in its turbocharged 1.6L three-cylinder engine and completed a total of 358 laps during the race at an average speed of 67.9km/h.
Toyota FIA World Endurance Championship star Kamui Kobayashi and Toyota president Akio Toyoda, an occasional racer under the name ‘Morizo’, were among the 6 drivers sharing the driving duties along with SUPER GT racers Hiroaki Ishiura, Takuto Iguchi and Takamitsu Matsui, and Super Taikyu specialist Masahiro Sasaki.
The Corolla completed the race with 35 pitstops (giving an average stint length of 10.2 laps), which were estimated to take around seven minutes each – meaning the car spent around four hours refueling. A special refueling zone was set up in the paddock outside of the pitlane, with two large trucks and a series of tanks supplying the compressed hydrogen needed for the car to be able to complete the distance.
Toyoda said he hopes to use the Corolla project to accelerate the development of hydrogen cars, and show they can also play a role in helping societies reduce their carbon emissions alongside electric vehicles. He said:
“The goal is simply to become carbon neutral. Since we made this statement, I, as the chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, have been asking the government to take the correct steps and increase the number of carbon-neutral options.
This is because, if all cars become battery-electric, one million jobs will be lost in Japan. I believe we have an opportunity to demonstrate one of these [alternative] options here in motorsports. I want to tell the world there is also this option to become carbon neutral.”
Drivers behind the wheels of hydrogen-powered Corolla were impressed for a number of reasons, such as it produces noise similar to that of a gasoline engine car and more importantly, behaves and feels exactly like a normal vehicle. To know how the hydrogen-powered Corolla sounds like, see the video below:
According to Toyota Gazoo Racing president Koji Sato, Toyota had adapted the engine from the GR Yaris for its hydrogen-powered Corolla, but with a decreased power output for durability reasons. He explained that hydrogen burns 7 times faster than regular gasoline, putting much more strain on the engine’s components, and that finding a way to make the engine lighter will be key to future performance gains.
“You don’t need to do anything special to make a hydrogen engine; you can make a hydrogen engine by applying existing technology. Since it is loaded with safety and measuring equipment, it weighs about 200kg, so we will aim to reduce the weight and improve fuel efficiency.”
We could have done something different if we brought a ‘polished’ engine specifically for racing and aimed to win. But we are not trying to do that, we are trying to be carbon-neutral and show how we can connect existing automotive technology to the future, Sato added.
A 3d animation professional with over 20 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations & production facilities of Pakistan, an avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver writings to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com