When it comes to hydrogen technology, most developments have been focused on coupling a hydrogen fuel cell power unit with electric drive motors, similar to the HFC Boot from Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus. But what if there’s another way, what if a century of internal combustion engine development could be saved by using liquified hydrogen in place of gasoline? Well, Yamaha Motors and Toyota Motor Corporation are looking to answer that question with the development of a 5.0L V8 powered by hydrogen.
Even as the narrative surrounding electric vehicles continues to grow louder, these traditional Japanese engineering giants are busy creating alternative storylines in defiance of the Twitterati and terminal Reddit users.
Work on the 5.0L hydrogen V8 started with a block manufactured by Toyota, it’s just a production 2UR-GSE yanked from a Lexus RC F. Yamaha handled the top end including the cylinder heads, camshafts, and intake manifold, while Denso was tasked with developing the direct injection and ignition systems. Yamaha says the engine is capable of delivering 449 hp at 6800 rpm and 398 lb-ft of torque at 3600 rpm.
As shown, the hydrogen V8 engine is clearly intended for some kind of mid-engine sports coupe or race car, as evidenced by the 8-into-1 “hot vee” exhaust. Moving the cold side of the cylinder heads to the outside means each bank would be fed air from individual plenums, similar to a Lotus Type 34 IndyCar with a Ford DOHC V8. The “hot vee” has become a popular engine design with twin-turbo DOHC layouts, similar to Cadillac’s discontinued 4.2L LTA Blackwing V8.
Development of the 5.0L hydrogen V8 has been ongoing since 2018, alongside a 1.6-liter G16E-GTS three-cylinder engine from the GR Yaris converted to run liquified hydrogen. Toyota raced a Corolla equipped with the three-cylinder in Japan’s Super Taikyu Series during the 2021 season and saw impressive gains in terms of efficiency and power output. The majority of the engine work over the past twelve months has focused on hydrogen injection, quenching, and ignition.
According to development engineer Takeshi Yamada, hydrogen engines offer completely unique performance characteristics. “I started to see that engines using only hydrogen for fuel actually had very fun, easy-to-use performance characteristics,” he explains. “Hydrogen engines have an innately friendly feel that makes them easy to use even without resorting to electronic driving aids.” Yamada also says the harmonic high-frequency exhaust note provides a new type of allure for combustion enthusiasts.
Of note, Toyota isn’t just pursuing liquified hydrogen engine development, the company is also heavily involved in researching new ways to produce hydrogen, along with refining the distribution channels in order to make the technology viable. Toyota has been working with the city of Fukuoka to produce hydrogen from public household sewage at a water treatment plant, along with developing CFRP tanks that are lighter, easier to transport, and capable of withstanding greater pressures which in turn makes them capable of more energy density.