Tokyo - Toyota is collaborating with major motorcycle manufacturer Kawasaki Motors to develop hydrogen engines for motorcycles and expand their use in and outside of Japan.
While moving full-steam ahead with the commercialisation of eco-friendly vehicles, Toyota aims to share data and issues with the motorcycle industry, a move the auto giant believes will speed up the development of hydrogen engines for cars and bikes alike.
Earlier this month, Toyota President Akio Toyoda drove a hydrogen-powered off-road vehicle at the Mobility Resort Motegi circuit in Tochigi Prefecture during a demonstration unveiling the car.
The hydrogen engine installed in the vehicle is for a motorcycle developed by Kawasaki Motors - Kawasaki Heavy Industries subsidiary responsible for the motorcycle division. The company developed the engine in cooperation with Toyota, Denso and other companies.
"There should be a variety of options to reduce carbon dioxide emissions," Toyoda told reporters at the event. "I hope the government will support the output by technological innovations like this, rather than stopping us with regulations."
The hydrogen engine is a modified version of an engine for the Ninja H2, a large motorcycle manufactured by Kawasaki. Kawasaki has installed the unit in four-wheeled vehicles that it sells in North America and other markets. Parts and other components are the same as those used in the hydrogen-powered Toyota Corolla.
Kawasaki said the firm joined the project after being prompted by Toyoda's call to work together beyond the boundaries of motorcycles and automobiles. The design process began in earnest in December.
The company intends to use the technology to decarbonise motorcycles along with Suzuki, Honda and Yamaha, Japan's other major motorcycle manufacturers.
A hydrogen engine burns hydrogen instead of petrol, and no CO2 is emitted except for the combustion of engine oil. Unlike fuel cell vehicles, which run on electricity generated from hydrogen to power the motor, the basic structure of a hydrogen-engine vehicle is the same as that of a petrol-powered car, so Japanese manufacturers can apply the parts and technologies they have already developed.
"The landscape has definitely changed over the past year," Toyota's Operating Officer Koji Sato told reporters on Sept. 4. "There are difficulties, but it's now clear what we need to do."
In order to increase the driving distance, Toyota is also working on technology to use hydrogen in liquid form rather than as a gas, as is currently the case. The volume of liquid hydrogen is 1/800th of that of its gas, creating the possibility of loading the tank with much more fuel.
Although temperature control and other issues remain, test-drives of a vehicle equipped with the system have been done on a track, with the aim of participating in races before the year's end.
However, the commercialisation of hydrogen-engine vehicles faces many obstacles. The engines and vehicles need to be developed further, the number of hydrogen stations must be increased, and laws and regulations need to be improved.
Toyota does not want hydrogen-engined vehicles to be limited to Japan, so the company needs to collaborate with foreign firms and organisations.
The Washington Post