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Toyota Shows Off Hydrogen-Burning Le Mans Prototype Race Car

Its hydrogen-engine technology is similar to Toyota's Super Taikyu hydrogen race car.

Toyota has been one of hydrogen fuel’s biggest proponents for years, advocating its use not only in road cars but race cars as well. So when the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO)—the governing body behind the 24 Hours of Le Mans—announced that it will allow hydrogen-powered cars starting in 2026, Toyota immediately got to work. The result of that work was just unveiled during a press conference ahead of this year’s Le Mans race: a hydrogen-burning Le Mans prototype race car.

Currently called the Toyota GR H2 Racing Concept, this hydrogen race car isn’t like your typical hydrogen fuel cell road cars. Rather than using an electric motor, that gets power generated from a hydrogen fuel cell, the GR H2 Racing Concept actually burns liquid hydrogen in a combustion engine. It’s a similar what’s used in the hydrogen-engine Toyota GR Corolla that’s been racing in the Super Taikyu Series since 2021.

Toyota didn’t provide any specs for the H2 racer, so there’s no word on power, efficiency, or weight. The only figures Toyota provided were size—it’s 5,100 mm long and 2,050 mm—and the fact that it’s a hydrogen hybrid. So it uses a liquid hydrogen combustion engine with hybrid assist.

According to Toyota Chairman, Akio Toyoda, the reason for investing in hydrogen combustion engine technology, rather than just electrification, is to recreate the excitement of internal combustion without the emissions.

“The sound, the torque, the dynamics, it’s all there. Not only are we reimagining the race car, we’re doing it with zero emissions,” Toyoda said of the GR H2 Racing Concept. “Here’s to the next 100 years of checkered flags!”

It’s fitting that Toyota announced a massive change in engine technology for Le Mans this year, as it’s the iconic race’s 100 year anniversary. While it’s unclear if hydrogen engines will become viable alternatives to gasoline engines, it’s certainly an idea I think many car enthusiasts can get behind. It’s still internal combustion, still makes the noises we know and love, and still has quick refueling times, which fits our current infrastructure. Motorsport has long been one of the biggest drivers of automotive technology (no pun intended), so if hydrogen engines are going to take off, races like Le Mans are where it’s going to start.

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