Skip to content
HOME » MOTORCYCLE GRAB BAG » Hydrogen Engines : Saving Internal Combustion

Hydrogen Engines : Saving Internal Combustion

More on hydrogen engines. The big take away might be “do it now before it is too late”. 

Yamaha has been commissioned by Toyota to build an engine but that’s not so unusual as the Tuning Fork company has a long history of similar work with other manufacturers. Arguably, the most famous in North America was the engine in the 1989 Taurus SHO. 

Yes, yes, it was a Taurus which in the late 1990s was as bland as a wet loaf of white bread but the car was extraordinarily popular and the best selling passenger vehicle in the US from 1992 through 1996 until giving up the title to the Toyota Camry. Appropriate considering the nature of this story. The Camry still holds the title today, losing it only once in the past 26 years and that was to the Honda Accord.

But subjective styling opinions aside, the Yamaha motor transformed the Taurus SHO into a fire breathing dragon, the fastest accelerating four-door sedan sold in Canada, and all that in a relatively inexpensive Taurus albeit one with body flares, a modified front end, fat tires and enough badging to make it clear this car wasn’t the same as those hundreds of thousands Taurus fleet cars. The change was nothing short of remarkable. 

The motor was impressive considering other engines in the Ford lineup at the time. The front wheel drive sedan suddenly made 220 horsepower from a motor that could rev to an astounding 7,200 rpm—it was entering motorcycle territory in that regard. 

By comparison the 302 V8 in the 1989 F-body Mustang produced only an additional five hp at 225. The Ford-Yamaha collaboration was followed up with another SHO engine but this time a 3.4 V8 for the 1996 Taurus, based on an aluminum block built in Canada and sent to Japan for the upgrades.  There was yet another 4.4 litre V8 that went into the Volvos. None of this was very complicated for Yamaha due to the company’s long history of building large outboard motors.

But this new commission is interesting and hopefully will have further ramifications for the motorcycle world. Toyota wants a 5.0 litre V8 powered by hydrogen to help achieve the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 through a variety of fuel options. 

“…’Motor’ is in our company name and we accordingly have a strong passion for and level of commitment to the internal combustion engine,” said Yoshira Hidaka, president of Yamaha Motors as he addressed the company’s stance on a variety of future options.

yamaha hydrogen internal combustion engine side studio view

Yamaha has since unveiled a 5.0 litre based on an existing gasoline engine from the Lexus RC F. Changes were made to the injectors, heads, and intake with the result being a healthy 450-hp and 397 foot-pounds torque. By comparison, Ford’s excellent current generation 5.0 V8 in the base Mustang GT produces 460 hp and 420 foot-pounds torque on gas.

Reportedly the Yamaha engineers believe the hydrogen engine is not just a stop gap measure but a true option to gasoline powered alternatives regardless of the ultimate goal.

yamaha hydrogen internal combustion engine front studio view

One of the chief engineers said: “Hydrogen engines have an innately friendly feel that makes them easy to use even without resorting to electronic driving aids. Everyone who came to test-drive the prototype car would start off somewhat skeptical, but emerged from the car with a big smile on their face at the end. As I watched this, I started to believe that there is actually enormous potential in the characteristics unique to hydrogen engines instead of simply treating it as a substitute for gasoline.”

All we can say is keep going with the hydrogen engines Yamaha, the motorcycle industry needs you, your motorcycle riding robot needs you, enthusiasts need you. 

The question becomes, as it does for the auto industry, can any other alternative exist once electric becomes entrenched as the “only” solution to the emissions problem? Are hydrogen engines coming to the party too late. Let’s hope not.

by John Molony Canadian Biker Issue #358



Keep independent motorcycle journalism alive! If you found this article interesting or useful, please consider sharing.