Toyota is working on a Corolla Cross prototype powered by hydrogen, but not in the same way as a fuel-cell electric vehicle like the Toyota Mirai. The Corolla Cross H2 Concept works more like the hydrogen-combustion GR Corolla H2, which Toyota has been developing under the guise of motorsport for one whole season of Super Taikyu endurance races in Japan.
It’s no secret that Toyota insists on making hydrogen a thing — almost to the point of being fixated on hydrogen rather than EVs. But it looks like the carmaker’s obsession could end up producing alternative clean cars, including a hydrogen fuel cell Toyota Hilux pickup truck and a hydrogen-combustion Corolla Cross.
Both machines are just concepts for now, but the company views them as precursors to vehicles that could be sold alongside Toyota’s upcoming EVs. The idea being that a combination of BEV, PHEV, FCEV and, possibly even clean-combustion models would offer a better approach than going all-in on battery EVs. Toyota’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Gill Pratt, explains:
We must do what is best for the environment, which is to extract the most carbon reduction from each battery cell produced, replacing as many non-electrified vehicles as possible with electrified ones, guided by the simple principle that carbon is the enemy, not a particular powertrain.
To that end, Toyota is not ready to give up on the hydrogen dream just yet, with both a traditional FCEV and radical hydrogen-combustion concept. The first model is a hydrogen fuel cell Toyota Hilux that the carmaker is developing and testing in the UK courtesy of a grant from the British government.
The fuel cell-powered Hilux borrows its drivetrain from the latest Toyota Mirai, replacing components of the gas- or diesel-burning Hilux with fuel cell stacks and compressed hydrogen tanks. The latest Mirai has a range of up to 402 miles. The Hilux likely wouldn’t get quite as much range, but it might end up with a limited production run. Presumably, culminating in a number of fuel cell Hilux trucks for municipal fleets in the UK.
But as cool as a fuel cell Hilux would be (just imagine a hydro Hilux bombing around Dakar), the Corolla Cross H2 is that much more exciting. Instead of relying on fuel cells that convert hydrogen to electricity to power an electric motor, the Corolla Cross H2 Concept uses the 1.6-liter three-cylinder turbocharged engine from the GR Corolla, modified to run on direct-injected high-pressure hydrogen.
The little powerplant has a history in other combustion models like the GR Yaris and GR Corolla, but has been modified to sip on hydrogen rather than gasoline. Toyota has been tuning the engine throughout the course of the Super Taikyu season, and racing development yielded a 24-percent increase in horsepower and 33-percent increase in torque. And yes, since it would be a hydrogen-powered piston engine, that means there’s a possibility of a manual transmission in a hydrogen car. Hydrogen manual!
After having upped the power, Toyota says it has also reduced refueling time by a wide margin, down from five minutes to 90 seconds. The power enhancements will likely be necessary to get the Corolla Cross H2 going, but Toyota says the Cross prototype has room for five passengers plus luggage.
Toyota says it’s about 40 percent of the way to commercializing similar cars, which sounds like the Corolla Cross H2 Concept could be almost halfway to production. The carmaker isn’t making any promises, though, even if this is about as promising as hydrogen has managed to seem for the future of propulsion technology.