Is internal combustion dead? Not if some companies have anything to say about it.
In November, 2021, five major automotive and motorcycle companies announced their plans to collaborate on carbon neutrality. Kawasaki, Yamaha, Mazda, Subaru, and Toyota all pledged to work together on projects they didn’t spell out in detail just then. Their joint press release also voiced the eventual expectation that Honda and Suzuki would join at some yet-to-be-determined point in the future.
Now it’s February, 2022, and Yamaha and Toyota announced plans to jointly develop a 5.0-liter V8 engine powered entirely by hydrogen. The goal, the two companies say, is to not give up entirely on the internal combustion engine while still pursuing all the companies’ stated carbon neutrality goals. It’s the next phase in that previously-announced multi-company collaboration, and it certainly won’t be the last.
“We are working toward achieving carbon neutrality by 2050,” Yamaha Motor president Yoshihiro Hidaka said in a statement. “At the same time, ‘Motor’ is in our company name and we accordingly have a strong passion for and level of commitment to the internal combustion engine.”
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“Hydrogen engines house the potential to be carbon-neutral while keeping our passion for the internal combustion engine alive at the same time. Teaming up with companies with different corporate cultures and areas of expertise as well as growing the number of partners we have is how we want to lead the way into the future,” Hidaka concluded.
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The carbon neutrality of hydrogen as a fuel is a possibility—but as we’ve mentioned previously, a whole lot of things have to happen end-to-end for it to be more than a pipe dream. That’s the goal of so-called green hydrogen, but the complexity and expense are two reasons why so-called blue hydrogen is presently the more popular option. (Well, that and the fact that blue hydrogen production still utilizes natural gas, and gas companies don’t exactly want to get left out in the cold.)
Anyway, Yamaha's V8 hydrogen engine is intended for use in automobiles. It makes a claimed 450 horsepower at 6,800 rpm, as well as peak torque of 540 newton-meters (or 398 pound-feet) at 3,600 rpm. We’re all for combining performance, usability, fun, and environmental sustainability whenever possible—but can manufacturers really have it all? That remains to be seen.