Hydrogen power requires "couple more years" of development, says Toyota WRC boss

Toyota World Rally Championship boss Jari-Matti Latvala believes a couple more years of development are required before hydrogen can become a viable alternative method of propulsion in global motorsport.

Toyota Yaris H2

Toyota is among the pioneers of hydrogen power in motorsport having invested heavily into developing the fuel as a future environmentally sustainable power source.

Last year the Japanese marque entered a hydrogen powered GR Corolla into the Fuji 24 Hours, which was driven by then-Toyota CEO and president Akio Toyoda and Latvala.

Toyota also used the hydrogen powertrain it has developed in an upgraded GR Yaris, which took on a selection of World Rally Championship stages at Ypres Rally Belgium and Rally Japan.

The GR Yaris H2 is based on a road going version of the car, fitted with upgraded suspension, and powered by a hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engine. As a result, the car’s only emissions are water, while the vehicle looks and sounds almost identical to its petrol powered derivative.

While development into hydrogen power has made rapid progress, Latvala believes there are still hurdles to overcome before it can emerge as a genuine alternative propulsion method for the future.

"For me, hydrogen is something really really interesting. It would be great to have in motorsport," Latvala told Autosport.

"I think having it tomorrow is a bit too early. There are a couple of things still where we need to work.

"One of the things with hydrogen is you are only able to go a certain distance. But already we can use the internal combustion engines, which we already have, so we wouldn’t need to change the engine.

"It is just the need to be able to get a longer distance using the fuel. There are two measures. You can have pressurised gas or a liquid version.

Toyota Yaris H2

Toyota Yaris H2

Photo by: Toyota Racing

"The liquid version could be really something, but it needs a bit more time. We need time. I think we would need a couple more years of development.

“That [range] is the biggest thing. There is of course the safety tanks. You need to have big tanks but also at the same time we already have the hybrid boxes also in the [WRC] cars currently, so I don’t think that is a problem. I think we can sort out having the safety tanks in the car.

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“Once we solve the distance it will be just about having stations all over the country to do the refuelling.”

Latvala is eying a return to Japan later this year to take part in another 24 hour race, driving the hydrogen powered GR Corolla.

"I am hoping to go to Japan this year for a 24 hour race to keep going the GR Corolla which we drove last year," he added.

"They are developing this car all of the time for this season. All the time the process is going on so I think they want to do another step with it this year, so it is interesting to see because for me the great thing with hydrogen is it has the same feeling as the normal internal combustion engine and you get the sound.

"You can see that something is coming from the exhaust but it is kind of invisible and it is clean."

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