Hydrogen fuel cells too fat for Toyota 86

Toyota’s cutting-edge drivetrain engineer says hydrogen tanks are too big to make small sports cars work

Silver Toyota 86 rear

TOYOTA has a big problem with its fuel cell technology when it comes to building it into a sports car such as the strong-selling 86 coupe – it’s just too fat.

Well, not the technology. Instead, it’s the hydrogen fuel tank that will cause all sorts of problems when you try and cram a bulky fuel cell drivetrain into a svelte sports coupe, the technology's chief engineer, Yoshikazu Tanaka, says.

“There’s one significant constraint to this technology — the tank,” Tanaka said at a preview night ahead of the Tokyo motor show opening last week.

Chassis -featuring -hydrogen -fuel -tank -in -Toyota -Mirai
A hydrogen cylinder lies ahead of the rear axle in this chassis for the hydrogen fuelled, front-wheel drive Toyota Mirai. There would not be room for the tank in the rear-drive 86, Toyota says. Credit: Kobby Dagan/Shutterstock.com

“If it is a conventional gasoline vehicle, you can design the fuel tanks to be in any shape. But for hydrogen, you need a very rigid tank and the shape has to be cylindrical.

“In the future, if we have the cost for one single hydrogen tank come down, then we can use many kinds of skinny hydrogen tanks. That would give us more flexibility in designing the vehicle,” he said.

However, Tanaka did not rule out using the technology in a larger rear-drive platform that gave the engineering team the room to package the hydrogen tank.

Silver -Toyota -86-front

“No, we have options,” he said when asked if fuel cells were limited to front-drive layouts.

“We have horizontal, sideways, to place two hydrogen tanks like that towards the rear of the vehicle. But if you can come up with a different layout of the stack, motor and hydrogen tank you can have rear-wheel drive,” he said.

“I don’t think we are doing that right now, but we are open to that idea.”


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