TOKYO – Toyota’s plans to plug the potential of a new liquefied hydrogen carbon-neutral combustion engine at an endurance race next weekend went up in flames. Quite literally.
The modified Corolla race car caught fire during testing because of a leak in a hydrogen fuel line.
No one was hurt in the March 8 accident, and the driver managed to escape the vehicle after an emergency failsafe kicked in, Toyota said in a briefing on Wednesday.
But technicians will not be able to get the car ready in time for its debut at a five-hour race in Japan’s Super Taikyu series scheduled for March 19 at the Suzuka Circuit in western Japan.
Toyota President Akio Toyoda had planned to take a turn behind the wheel in the race as part of his push to promote clean-burning hydrogen combustion technologies as one route to achieving carbon neutrality. He has raced cars with hydrogen-burning engines since 2021.
For the 2023 racing season, Toyota planned to introduce a new twist on the technology by using liquefied hydrogen. In the two previous seasons, Toyota’s entry had run on compressed hydrogen gas. All of the Toyota cars burn their hydrogen in an internal combustion engine, like gasoline.
They do not feed the hydrogen through a fuel cell to generate electricity, as in the Mirai sedan.
Liquid hydrogen can be a tricky fuel to handle, and it is sometimes the bane of space agencies that use it in rockets. An attempt last autumn by NASA to launch a giant moon rocket for its Artemis I mission was delayed because of a liquid hydrogen leak.