Kurt Verlin
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Toyota is Bringing Hydrogen to Motorsports

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Super Taikyu Series Race
Photo: Toyota

Toyota has recently been one of the world’s biggest proponents of hydrogen fuel, and the automaker is certainly putting its money where its mouth is. After developing hydrogen fuel cell technology for passenger cars, buses, semi-trucks, and heavy-duty machinery, Toyota is now bringing hydrogen to motorsports.

On May 21-23, Toyota will participate in a 24-hour race at the famous Fuji Speedway using a Corolla Sport. Instead of using liquid gasoline as usual, the modified hatchback’s turbocharged 1.6-liter three-cylinder engine will use compressed hydrogen gas. According to Toyota, that comes with a host of benefits.

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“Combustion in hydrogen engines occurs at a faster rate than in gasoline engines, resulting in improved responsiveness. While having excellent environmental performance, hydrogen engines also have the potential to relay the fun of driving, including through sounds and vibrations,” the automaker said in a press release.

Beyond that single event, Toyota hasn’t announced any additional plans for hydrogen-powered racing. Though the company is by no means a stranger to endurance racing — having won the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times in a row — its participation at Fuji will likely be little more than a publicity stunt for hydrogen. If Toyota has a good showing and demonstrates that hydrogen really is better than gas — not just for the environment, but for performance, too — then it might motivate other manufacturers to get a closer look at the tech.

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Hydrogen Engine Graphic
Photo: Toyota

That said, there may be further motorsport-related endeavors on the cards for Toyota. The competitive environment makes motorsports a hotbed of automotive innovation, and the automaker did have this to say: “By further refining its hydrogen-engine technologies through motorsports, Toyota intends to aim for the realization of an even better hydrogen-based society.”

The upcoming new Toyota GR Super Sport endurance hypercar doesn’t run on hydrogen, but the governing body for the 24 Hours of Le Mans has approved a hydrogen class for 2024, and a team has already confirmed it would compete in it. We wouldn’t be surprised if Toyota eventually did the same.