Toyota-led Japanese team aims to save the internal combustion engine

Toyota’s embrace of the internal combustion engine and hydrogen has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. Led by the stubborn antics of Akio Toyoda, Toyota is celebrating the fact that it refused to sign the commitment to eliminate the infernal combustion engines in Glasgow last week by forming the Japan team. Along with Mazda, Subaru, Yamaha and Kawasaki, Team Japan will do everything possible to make sure our grandkids get to know and love piston power.

The plan, as it stands, proposes the development of biomass-derived “green fuels” to keep all those pistons pumping, crankshafts turning, valves opening and closing, and multi-speed transmissions turning. so that Japanese workers continue to have jobs putting all these machines together. God never intended for Japan to simplify automobile powertrains. The very idea is an assault on Japanese pride, or so Toyoda-san seems to think. [It is also an assault on the profitability of corporations like Toyota, but we assume Akio Toyoda wouldn’t put his personal wealth ahead of the needs of the environment… would he?]

“By promoting greater collaboration in the production, transportation and use of fuel in combination with internal combustion engines, the five companies aim to provide customers with greater choice,” the companies said in a statement. hurry. According to Automotive News, the formation of Team Japan was announced at a joint press conference at Okayama International Circuit, a circuit in western Japan where Toyoda was to drive a Toyota Corolla racing car equipped with a hydrogen engine jointly developed with Yamaha in a Super Taikyu series. race.

The five companies say they will:

  • Compete in races using carbon neutral fuels
  • Explore the use of hydrogen engines in two-wheeled and other vehicles
  • Keep running using hydrogen engines.

Mazda and Toyota will cooperate in the race by rolling out a 1.5-liter Skyactiv-D engine powered by next-generation biodiesel. Subaru and Toyota will work together to develop synthetic fuels derived from biomass during next year’s Super Taikyu Series endurance season in Japan. Finally, Kawasaki and Yamaha will consider the possibility of joint research on the development of hydrogen engines for motorcycles. Yamaha is one of the companies working on making interchangeable batteries for 2 wheelers, which seems like a much better use of their time.

Hydrogen, hydrogen everywhere and not a drop to burn

Akio Toyoda has hydrogen in his brain. What’s up with that? As Charles Morris details in a recent Clean Technica afterwards, Toyota began experimenting with hydrogen long before the start of the current electric car era. Hydrogen is attractive. It burns cleanly, leaving only a little water vapor behind. So what is the problem?

Precisely that. Hydrogen is the most reactive of all the elements. It combines freely with almost all other elements and forms strong chemical bonds that require enormous amounts of energy to separate. Once isolated, it requires even more energy to compress or liquefy. The tanks necessary for its storage are bulky and heavy. It is difficult to transport. And in many parts of the world, hydrogen fueling stations are as rare as honest politicians.

But that’s not the worst. Most hydrogen today comes from fossil fuels like coal or methane, the very elements that are helping to destroy the environment today. So why would any sane person want to use them to make hydrogen for automobiles and motorcycles? The answer is that they wouldn’t.

In theory, “green” hydrogen can be made by electrolysis of water, but this requires huge amounts of electricity. Hydrogen proponents blithely claim that we simply need to build enough solar and wind installations so that there is excess electricity lying around with nothing better to do than turn water into its component parts. – hydrogen and oxygen. And it could happen, one day in the distant future. But right now there is not enough renewable energy to meet the world’s needs and the worst possible idea would be to take some of what is available and divert it to the task of electrolysis. ‘water.

Hydrogen has an important role to play in reducing carbon emissions from industrial operations such as steel and cement manufacturing. Wouldn’t it be better to use it for what it does best? As Michael Barnard points out, hydrogen and electricity each have their uses, but in the case of hydrogen, personal transportation is not one of them.

Charles Morris concludes that Akio Toyoda’s fixation on hydrogen is more about saving face than anything else. With Team Japan, he took his personal mania to a whole new level. Biofuels aren’t a bad idea, but betting the fortunes of one of the world’s biggest automakers – and possibly that of an entire nation – on one man’s fixation on saving face is “amazing”, as Elon Musk would say.

The only good news about Team Japan’s announcement is that it doesn’t mention fuel cell vehicles anywhere. Perhaps, finally, Toyoda and the company he runs are moving away from this idea.

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