Toyota CEO hopeful hydrogen power could be the future for rallying

Toyota is hopeful hydrogen power will emerge as a future environmentally-friendly propulsion method for rallying following the debut of its GR Yaris hydrogen prototype.

Toyota Yaris H2

The Japanese marque has invested heavily in hydrogen power as an alternative fuel for motorsport, having recently entered a hydrogen- powered GR Corolla into the Fuji 24 Hours in June, which was driven by Toyota CEO and president Akio Toyoda and Toyota’s WRC boss Jari-Matti Latvala.

Last weekend Toyota used the hydrogen powertrain it has developed in an upgraded GR Yaris, which took on a selection of World Rally Championship stages at the Ypres rally Belgium. The car was driven by Toyoda and four-time world champion Juha Kankkunen.

The GR Yaris H2 is based on a road-going version of the car, fitted with upgraded suspension, and powered by an hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engine.

As a result, the car’s only emissions are water, while the vehicle looks and sounds almost identical to the current road car.

Asked by Motorsport.com if hydrogen power could be the future for rallying, Toyoda said: “I hope so. Hydrogen or electricity needs infrastructures.

“We have a hydrogen station in Belgium so we need that kind of infrastructure, however if we move with these kind of activities, and we continue, and all the people feel the same feelings then we can make our future together.”

He added: “The world issue for the automobile industry is carbon neutrality. We need it.

“However to build up the automobile industry we have a lot of people who love cars and love to drive and love engines and the business with petrol.

“If you look at the environment things, is there any solution for a win-win situation? This hydrogen is used in engines and we have [engine] sounds, and the only output from the car is water, so this is good for the environment, and good for being fun to drive.”

Toyota Yaris H2

Toyota Yaris H2

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Rally legend Kankkunen, who won WRC titles in 1986, 1987, 1991 and 1993, the last with Toyota, was impressed by the car and feels hydrogen could be developed into future WRC machines.

The WRC has made its first move towards a more environmentally-friendly future this season with the introduction of Rally1 hybrid cars that run on 100% sustainable fuel provided by P1 Racing Fuels.

“I don’t know what will happen but it is for sure one solution,” said Kankkunen of hydrogen power. “Rallies are too long for full electric cars plus they are very heavy and they have no noise but if you have clean fuel like that, I think it will be the future for rallying.”

“You have to compare it to a standard GR Yaris, the engine is different, there is more torque and maybe a little bit more power. I was changing the gears on the straight all of the time and it was going to rev limiter straight away.

“It burns better than the fuel you can buy from the petrol station it looks like that, that was the first impression for me. The response is good from the engine. It was surprisingly good. I thought it would be less and lazy but it is quicker than the standard car.

“There is no difference [in engine braking] because it is still the petrol engine. When you lift off the throttle it brakes automatically and the compression is the same.”

Kankkunen also revealed he had no concerns over safety, driving a car with a hydrogen cell.

"Nowadays you can protect it so well into the car,” he added. “Motorsport is dangerous and it has always been dangerous, there is always a risk whatever it is.

Toyota isn’t the only manufacturer looking into hydrogen power for use in motorsport.

French marque Alpine is conducting an evaluation study into whether hydrogen could be a direction for Formula 1 to investigate.

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