Team Japan To Save Internal Combustion Engines From Extinction
A coalition of five Japanese companies called ‘Team Japan’ has been formed which will explore new, greener fueling options for internal combustion engines. Spearheaded by Toyota, the Team Japan will dedicate its efforts to keeping internal combustion engines alive on the road to carbon neutrality even as rivals continue to gravitate toward battery electric vehicles.
Toyota, Subaru and Mazda as well as motorcycle makers Kawasaki and Yamaha are part of this group. The companies announced the initiative at a joint press conference at Okayama International Circuit, a racetrack in western Japan where the Chairman of Toyota, Akio Toyoda was scheduled to drive a Toyota Corolla race car specially equipped with a hydrogen burning engine in Super Taikyu Series endurance race.
The five Japanese companies said they will:
- Participate in races using carbon-neutral fuels
- Explore the use of hydrogen engines in two-wheel and other vehicles
- Continue to race using hydrogen engines.
According to the plans, Mazda and Toyota will cooperate in racing by deploying a 1.5-liter Skyactiv-D engine powered by next-generation biodiesel. Subaru and Toyota will work together in next year’s Super Taikyu Series endurance season in Japan by using biomass-derived synthetic fuel. Whereas Yamaha and Toyota are entering the hydrogen-engine vehicle in the current race. Lastly, Kawasaki and Yamaha will consider the possibility of joint research into hydrogen engine development for motorcycles.
The announcement comes as Akio Toyoda and Toyota push back on the notion that electric vehicles are the only way to achieve carbon neutrality. Toyota believes technological breakthroughs, such as hydrogen engines, can give internal combustion a new lease on life, saving jobs as well as the environment. It is a debate over the best road to net-zero carbon.
According to Team Japan:
“By promoting further collaboration in producing, transporting and using fuel in combination with internal combustion engines, the five companies aim to provide customers with greater choice.”
However auto industry pundits from other parts of the world have their own reservations with hydrogen. Although hydrogen burns cleanly, leaving nothing behind but some water vapor. However it is the most reactive of all the elements and combines freely with almost every other element to form strong chemical bonds that take enormous amounts of energy to break apart. Once isolated, it requires even more energy to compress or liquefy. The tanks needed to store hydrogen are heavy. It is difficult to transport, and in many parts of the world, hydrogen refueling stations are as scarce as honest politicians.
Furthermore, most hydrogen is derived from fossil fuels like coal or methane — the very things that are helping destroy the environment today. Theoretically, “green” hydrogen can be made by electrolysis of water, but that process itself requires enormous amount of electricity. So in simple words, we need to build enough solar and wind facilities so there is an excess of electricity hanging around just to turn water into its component parts — hydrogen and oxygen.
So in the end, its all about getting back to electricity which makes EVs a more viable option which are already witnessing tremendous increase in sales in global markets. Electric vehicles including battery electric and plug-in hybrids, made up 7.2% of global car sales in the first half of 2021, up from 2.6% in 2019 and 4.3% in 2020, according to BloombergNEF which presented this data at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26). Compared to this, for hydrogen the required infrastructure is non-existent and quite cumbersome to build as well.