It's not just Toyota that's placing faith in hydrogen technology.
Toyota has long been a proponent of hydrogen technology. In various regions across the world, the Mirai offers buyers a taste of the alternative fuel. Meanwhile, on the track, the automaker has been showcasing the benefits of hydrogen with a specially designed Corolla race car.
Many have criticized the company for exploring other avenues and seemingly ignoring battery-powered vehicles, but Toyota believes there's more than one way to skin a cat - and some automotive suppliers seem to agree. As per Automotive News, both BorgWarner and Riken are looking into developing parts for hydrogen engines.
The former, best known for transmissions and turbochargers, is reportedly on the cusp of introducing components for hydrogen motors. This includes fuel injectors, electronic control units, and a rail system. Japan's Riken, on the other hand, has created a hydrogen engine testing center and is exploring hydrogen component production.
"The problem is not the internal combustion engine...the problem is carbon," remarked BorgWarner's Hans Hardam. This is a viewpoint shared by Toyota, which is reticent to give up on ICE technology. Gill Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, shared recently that he believes battery-powered EVs aren't a 'one size fits all' solution.
Even though he owns an electric vehicle himself, Pratt noted there are downsides. "Lithium-ion batteries aren't without consequence," he said at the time.
They're made using rare, mined materials - in contrast, an engine is made using more common materials - and weigh a lot. It may be more costly to develop than conventional engines, but hydrogen power has an ace up its sleeve. As it can be based on available engine technology, the existing suppliers and experts can quickly develop parts and also bring the technology to market quickly.
BorgWarner's expertise in producing turbochargers has placed the company in a comfortable position for planned hydrogen vehicles. Hydrogen engines require more air than their gas-powered counterparts and, as such, turbochargers are required to provide a suitable blend of power, economy, and emissions.
The automotive parts giant envisions a future where hydrogen combustion will be one of several choices for consumers to select from. Where electric vehicles will, likely, grow in popularity, hydrogen combustion may cater to keen drivers. It's likely to be cheaper than battery-powered vehicles, too.
There are drawbacks to hydrogen engines, though. It may be cheaper to develop than EV technology, but it is 30% more expensive than the cost of developing conventional engines. This will, of course, be passed on to the consumer. What's more, while these engines don't emit any carbon, they're not exactly emissions-free. As reported, nitrogen oxide gases remain an issue.
Toyota isn't alone in backing hydrogen technology. Hyundai recently previewed the N Vision 74 concept as a retro-styled, hydrogen fuel cell sports car with 679 horsepower. The Korean company is also working with Rimac on a high-performance fuel cell vehicle, which will likely wear an N badge when it arrives.
BMW which, like Hyundai, is also embracing electromobility, has thrown its hat into the hydrogen ring. The German automaker's iX5 is expected to hit the scene by 2025 and sit alongside ICE and electric stablemates in the lineup. Company CEO Oliver Zipse is outspoken about the fact that BMW will offer something for everyone, in all regions.
But according to BorgWarner, it's not sports cars and luxury vehicles that will make this tech popular at first. The parts supplier believes hydrogen power is well suited to heavy vehicles and, eventually, SUVs and pickup trucks.