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Why the combustion engine might not be dead despite climate change

Why the combustion engine might not be dead despite climate change

Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota, at the Super Taikyu Race at Okayama International Circuit in Mimasaka, where the company showcased its carbon-neutral technology.

Akio Toyoda, the president of the world’s biggest car manufacturing Toyota, spent the weekend swerving around a racetrack in western Japan in a Corolla.

But it’s no ordinary version of the bestselling car. Toyoda drove a version specially equipped with Toyota’s new in-house hydrogen engine, which propels the vehicle by burning the fuel much like traditional engines use petrol or diesel.

Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota, at the Super Taikyu Race at Okayama International Circuit in Mimasaka, where the company showcased its carbon-neutral technology.

President of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, at the Super Taikyu Race in Okayama International Circuit, Mimasaka, where the company displayed its carbon-neutral technology.Credit:Bloomberg

Toyota also displayed vehicles that ran on carbon-neutral propellants during a three-hour race in Okayama.

Toyota’s hydrogen-powered car underscores the company’s belief that a wide variety of vehicle types – including hybrids, hydrogen-powered cars and electrics (EVs) – will play a role in decarbonising its fleet over the coming decades. That puts the company at odds with others, such as General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo, which say they’ll sell only EVs two decades from now.

“The enemy is carbon, not internal combustion engines,” Toyoda said on Saturday. “We need diverse solutions – that’s the path toward challenging carbon neutrality.”

Toyota’s Corolla Sport H2 Concept vehicle, equipped with a hydrogen-powered engine.

Toyota’s Corolla Sport H2 Concept vehicle, equipped with a hydrogen-powered engine.Credit:Bloomberg

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Toyota states that different technologies for reducing emissions are needed for different regions. EVs are an option for Europe, where electricity can be charged with electricity largely from renewable sources. Alternative options, such hydrogen or hybrids may be better suited for other regions.

The technology is separate from the company’s other big bet on hydrogen – hydrogen fuel cells such as those that power the Mirai passenger car. The fuel cell uses the chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity. The hydrogen engine burns the element the same way as petrol or diesel.

Traditional engines only need to be tweaked in minor ways, such as changing out the fuel supply and injection systems, to make them capable of running on hydrogen, Toyota’s chief engineer Naoyuki Sakamoto said last month.

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