Designed by Toyota engineering partner Yamaha, the new engine is said to carve out its own niche in the electric era – however its environmental credentials are yet to be proven.
Toyota and long-time Japanese engineering partner Yamaha are working to develop hydrogen-powered 5.0-litre V8 engines, in an effort to keep internal combustion technology alive as electric vehicles grow in popularity.
Unlike a hydrogen fuel-cell power unit – which combines hydrogen and oxygen atoms to create electricity and drive a motor – the new powertrain is a conventional piston-driven engine, tuned to burn hydrogen instead of petrol.
Based on the block from a Lexus RC F coupe (shown below), the 5.0-litre naturally-aspirated engine underwent modifications to its injectors, cylinder heads, and intake manifold.
Preliminary testing shows a maximum output of 335kW/540Nm, according to Yamaha. For reference, in its original petrol-powered configuration the same engine sends 351kW/530Nm to the ground.
There are no confirmed plans yet to offer the engine in a production vehicle, and its environmental credentials are yet to be proven – however overseas reports suggest it may debut in a version of the Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series four-wheel-drive.
While burning hydrogen does not produce carbon dioxide – one of the primary contributors to global warming – it does result in a range of other potentially-dangerous emissions, including nitrogen oxide.
Despite this, Toyota and Yamaha remain adamant the technology could carve out a niche in the increasingly-electrified automotive landscape.
“Hydrogen engines house the potential to be carbon-neutral while keeping our passion for the internal combustion engine alive at the same time,” Yamaha Motor president Yoshihiro Hidaka said.
“I started to see that engines using only hydrogen for fuel actually had very fun, easy-to-use performance characteristics,” added Takeshi Yamada, an engineer at Yamaha’s Technical Research & Development Centre.
“This is a challenge we can sink our teeth into as engineers and I personally want to pursue not just performance but also a new allure for the internal combustion engine that the world has yet to see.”
While Toyota has faced criticism for its unwillingness to transition to electric cars, the Japanese automotive giant recently revealed a fleet of 12 zero tailpipe-emission concept vehicles, many of which will reach production in the coming years.