Toyota’s Hydrogen-Powered Engine Sounds Pretty Damn Good

Exhaust-note fans, take heart. All is not lost.

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Toyota’s Hydrogen-Powered Engine Sounds Pretty Damn Good © Toyota’s Hydrogen-Powered Engine Sounds Pretty Damn Good

The hashtag #savethemanuals has been a battle cry for years now as enthusiasts claw back the option to shift their own gears, thank you very much. The next cause célèbre could be “Save the Exhaust Note!” as electric vehicles gain ground with a spaceship-like whine.

Toyota is jumping into the fray, releasing a video that highlights the sound of its hydrogen-powered engine. Hosting the powerplant is a modified Corolla Sport with a turbo three-banger; it's currently preparing for the Super Taikyu Series' 24-hour event at Fuji in a few weeks (May 21-23). The Corolla sounds remarkably similar to a gas-powered engine, making my rumbling-engine-loving heart go pitter-patter.


In the video published by Toyota Times, driver Hiroaki Ishiura says, “It’s not as different as I expected. It feels like a normal engine.”

Normal, that is, with the familiar vroom vroom but atypical in that it doesn't emit CO2. As Hazel reported a week ago, however, burning hydrogen still produces greenhouse gas and nitrous oxide.  

Hydrogen as a solution to environmental concerns has a number of challenges currently, including low energy efficiency, production difficulty, and storage struggles. Even the U.S. Department of Energy says, “Applicable codes and standards for hydrogen storage systems and interface technologies, which will facilitate implementation/commercialization and ensure safety and public acceptance, have not been established.” In other words, it’s a pain.

Toyota announced its commitment to hydrogen fuel-cell technology with the Mirai a couple of years ago, but the setup the automaker is using in this Corolla Sport is different. The Mirai uses hydrogen fuel to convert electricity and power with an onboard electric motor, and this particular Corolla Sport is equipped with AWD borrowed from the Yaris hot hatch and an internal combustion engine that harnesses hydrogen. Basically, they took gasoline-powered fuel and injection parts and modified them to burn hydrogen instead. 

During testing, this H2 engine sounds great. I'm looking forward to finding out how it does on the track later this month.  

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