Investing in hydrogen is widely considered to be a money pit with a dead end. However, there are some automakers that insist it could be an alternative to battery-powered EVs in the carbon-neutral era we're striving to reach. BMW is a strong believer that hydrogen fuel cell cars could peacefully coexist with traditional EVs. Its partner in hydrogen tech development Toyota feels the same way but with a twist by using H2 to fuel an internal combustion engine.
Prototypes of the GR Yaris and GR Corolla hot hatches modified to run on hydrogen have already been tested during various races. Earlier this year, Toyota also joined forces with domestic partners Honda, Suzuki, and Kawasaki to pursue hydrogen-burning combustion engines for "small mobility." The collaboration will bear fruit next week when a mockup of this off-roader will be displayed at the 2023 Japan Mobility Show.
This all-terrain contraption dubbed "HySE-X1" will go on to compete at the gruelling 2024 Dakar Rally. It's powered by a supercharged inline-four engine with a 1.0-litre displacement. This 16-valve, liquid-cooled engine produces an unspecified amount of power in a vehicle that weighs about 1,500 kilograms (3,306 pounds). Toyota and Honda say the HySE-X1 is 3,530 millimetres (139 inches) long, 2,070 mm (81.5 in) wide, and 1,700 mm (67 in) tall.
The go-anywhere vehicle gets its "HySE" moniker from Hydrogen Small Mobility & Engine technology and is based around a chassis developed by Belgium-based Overdrive Racing. It has been subjected to several changes to accommodate the hydrogen fuel tank as well as the fuel supply system.
It will take part in the "Mission 1000" Challenge in Saudi Arabia from 5 to 19 January 2024. This programme is touted as a laboratory to promote and test energy-efficient powertrains, be they hydrogen, electric, or biofuel. It's more of a test for cars, bikes, and trucks rather than a competition since there won't be any winners and losers at first. However, the organisers want "Mission 1000" to eventually become an actual race.
As a final note, we should point out that hydrogen-burning combustion engines have been around for a long time. Probably the best-known example is the BMW Hydrogen 7 (E65) built in the mid-2000s with a V12 engine that ran on both hydrogen and petrol. However, it never went into series production as only 100 were made and these were handed out to select people to test them and spread awareness about hydrogen-burning combustion engines.
That car superseded the lesser-known 7 Series Hydrogen prototype (E38) from 2000 that also had a big V12. In 2023, BMW has the iX5 experimental prototypes that ditch the ICE in favour of a fuel cell hydrogen setup.