No, Hydrogen Won't Save ICE Passenger Cars, But it Might Save Race Cars

A short while ago, our esteemed colleague Gustavo Henrique Ruffo published an editorial where he explains why swapping petroleum for hydrogen in our internal combustion engines is not the way forward for sustainable consumer cars and trucks.
Toyota Hydrogen Engine 17 photos
Photo: Toyota
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Now, to say the response to this notion was mixed was an understatement. We get it, people. As car enthusiasts, we took the EV revolution pretty darn hard, us at autoevolution included. But it looks like the scientific facts and evidence about internal combustion in general and its effects on global climate change appear to rule in Gustavo's favor time after time.

But when reading his editorial on the nuts and bolts behind hydrogen vehicle technology, it's important to remember one thing. He's only referring to everyday, run-of-the-mill passenger cars. He said nothing about race cars. That's an entirely different ballgame altogether.

You see, in a passenger car context, there's a whole host of requirements mandated by governments the world over that every single production vehicle must meet. Be it a regular gasoline engine, a battery EV, Hydrogen Fuel Cell, or whatever the case may be. With some U.S. States implementing strict noise caps on passenger vehicles, not producing any noise whatsoever is only a strong suit.

The long-term environmental sustainability of a passenger car is another tricky thing to contend with from a passenger car point of view. Especially when the hydrogen source for fuel is often spawned from the petrochemical refinement in the first place. Well, ICE fans, these two annoying pieces of red tape aren't anywhere to be found in racing.

Toyota GR Yaris Hydrogen Concept
Photo: Toyota
In the spectacle that is auto racing and moto racing as well, a whole different set of parameters will judge if they succeed. Noise levels are not a concern when it comes to a big race. It's the main attraction, in fact. Of course, EV motor racing does exist and will only continue to grow. But it's just not the same attraction without roaring engines.

This is where Toyota and Yamaha, at the very least, are ahead of the curve somewhat. Hydrogen combustion engines are nothing new. BMW was playing around with the idea as far back as the late 1980s. But the five-liter V8 engine that formed the basis for Yamaha/Toyota's most recent joint venture is a generational leap in the technology.

450 hp (335.6 kW) at 6,800 rpm and 540 Nm (398.3 pound-feet) at 3,600 rpm are achievable in this slightly-green alternative to the accepted V8 norm. Toyota now has quite a sizeable repertoire in their prototype hydrogen-ICE research. Engines as small as 1.6-liter turbo four-pots all the way to thumping great V8s prove there's at least a certain level of scalability to the technology.

Now, there's no way Hydrogen ICE racing engines would generate anywhere near the profits of more reliable battery EV and Hydrogen Fuel Cell passenger vehicles. But have you seen the size of Lewis Hamilton's bank account? Well, admittedly, none of us have. Won't stop every TMZ knock-off from writing articles as if they have. Safe to say, it's in the hundreds of millions, and they had to get that money from somewhere, right?

Photo: Toyota
Our point is. Our dear friend Gustavo was just as right about Hydrogen ICE being a ham-fisted idea in passenger car service as he was before. No amount of gatekeeping and fanboy tactics will change that. But that doesn't mean the technology is entirely useless. There will come a day when the gasoline needed for motor racing of any kind runs out forever. When that day comes, the auditory and visual spectacle of a good race will not vanish from this Earth.

But what are your thoughts? Do you think Hydrogen ICE has real potential? Or is it all a bunch of nonsense? Let us know in the comments down below.
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