If you attended the Belgian rally, which took place last week near Ypres, you may have seen a GR Yaris like no other. In addition to the WRC versions, Toyota has indeed entered a road car converted to hydrogen as a lead car.
Can hydrogen save the « good old » internal combustion engine? It is in any case a track on which Toyota is working seriously. Last year, the world’s leading manufacturer entered a racing Corolla in a championship in Japan that used this chemical element as fuel. But last week, it was much closer to home, at the Ypres rally in Belgium, that a somewhat modified GR Yaris wanted to test the viability of this technical solution.
close to the series
For the occasion, the Japanese bombinette was even entitled to a renowned crew. The big boss of the brand Akio Toyoda, who takes the pseudonym « Morizo » when he lines up in competition, and the four-time Finnish world champion Juha Kankkunen, who won his last title at the wheel of a Celica coupe in 1993 , indeed alternated the roles of pilot and co-pilot. The aim, however, was not to compete with the WRC versions. This GR Yaris H2 (the chemical code for dihydrogen used as fuel) has only participated in demonstrations at the opening of three stages, before the passage of the real competitors. Still in the prototype state, it keeps a three-cylinder 1.6 turbo very close to that of the road versions, apart from a few modifications to the power circuit and the injection system. It also differs by its tanks, derived from the fuel cell Mirai, in which the hydrogen is stored in gaseous form and under high pressure.
Heat engine sound and performance
What in theory ensure a fairly comfortable autonomy and refueling almost as fast as with a gasoline model, while maintaining a much more attractive sound for most motorsport enthusiasts than that of electric motors.
I think people are excited because sports stimulate our five senses. That’s why I want to keep the engine vibrations and the sound of the exhaust in motorsport, says Akio Toyoda.
The small three-cylinder converted to hydrogen was also expected at the turn in terms of performance, and it did not disappoint Juha Kankkunen. » It delivers solid torque, which makes it no different from a gasoline engine “, assures the” flying Finn “. The former world champion is therefore confident about the future of this proposal and says: » Because they do not emit CO2I believe that hydrogen engines will become one of the options to achieve carbon neutrality not only in the world of motorsport, but also in that of everyday cars. »
We have an extra special car driving the #YpresRally stages: the GR Yaris H2 concept running on hydrogen fuel with rally legend Juha Kankkunen behind the wheel! 💧#ToyotaGAZOORacing #GRYaris #WRC @pirellisport pic.twitter.com/wELrOXFIss
— TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT (@TGR_WRC) August 19, 2022
A still uncertain future
For this pious wish to become reality, however, there is still a long way to go. Particularly in the field of production, storage and transport of hydrogen, which pose many difficulties and regularly attract the wrath of environmental associations. But after considering imposing the transition to 100% electric in 2035, the European Union has finally left a small door open for alternatives. The combustion engine has therefore perhaps not said its last word. In addition to its experimental synthetic fuels plant based in Chile, Porsche recently announced that it has studied the potential of adapting its 4.4 biturbo V8 to run on hydrogen. With rather encouraging results. Even if this work has not gone beyond the computer stage for the moment, the German brand thus joins Toyota, its partner Yamaha or even former BMW engineers among the possible defenders of this solution.