Toyota will race a hydrogen-powered Corolla for 24 hours straight, and it sounds good

Will hydrogen finally give the internal combustion engine a new lease on life?

Toyota Gazoo Racing hydrogen Corolla

Talking points

  • Hydrogen race car will be based on standard Toyota Corolla hatchback
  • Automaker's in-house GAZOO Racing team is overseeing the project
  • 24 hour race happening at this month's Super Taikyu Series 24 hour race at Fuji International Speedway

Toyota is entering a purely hydrogen-powered Corolla at this month’s Super Taikyu Series 24 hour race at Fuji International Speedway.

The surprise entry has come as a shock to many, and things only get more mystifying when you read details of the Japanese automaker’s previously unknown Corolla racer. 

Unlike other hydrogen-powered cars, such as the marque’s recently launched Mirai, the new Corolla isn’t a fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV). 

Fuji International Speedway

This means that instead of using electric motors that are powered by electricity generated through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, the Corolla is driven by an internal combustion engine modified to run exclusively on hydrogen. 

The eco-friendly gas is fed into the engine with no additives or petrol, and that translates to virtually no CO2 emissions. 

The trick powertrain is also mated to an equally cool drivetrain, which utilises the same 4WD set-up found on the GR Yaris hot hatch.

Based on a standard Corolla hatchback, the car is also being developed by Toyota's in-house racing outfit – GAZOO Racing. 

Speaking about the revelatory machine, GAZOO Racing president, Koji Sato, said there were both benefits and challenges to running a hydrogen-powered race car.

“What makes hydrogen special is that its combustion speed is eight times that of gasoline. That means a faster response. So low-speed torque almost immediately after the get-go and torque-strong response are what make hydrogen engines so good,” Sato said.

“However, hydrogen’s quick burn rate results in high pressure and high temperatures, making heat management a technical issue. So, it becomes a matter of how to find a good balance for maximum output.

“In the coming race, we will check the balance between how far to push maximum output while maintaining stable combustion.”

GAZOO Racing president, Koji Sato

A video released by the Toyota Times also gives us an idea of what the high-powered hydrogen-fuelled hatchback sounds like, and even though it’s only a 33 second clip, the news is good – the Corolla sounds just like a petrol-powered racer. 

Be sure to watch this space are WhichCar brings you all the latest updates on Toyota’s fascinating new race car.


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