Home » Toyota Drops Hydrogen, Electric AE86s At The 2023 Tokyo Auto Salon

Toyota Drops Hydrogen, Electric AE86s At The 2023 Tokyo Auto Salon

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The Tokyo Auto Salon is where the tuners come out to play, but lots of times the automakers themselves get to have fun too. Case in point: Toyota came to party at Japan’s version of SEMA (kinda, mostly) with not one but two powertrain-converted AE86s that don’t run on gasoline at all. One is a battery EV, and the other one is powered by hydrogen. “Carbon neutrality for protecting beloved cars,” as they say. Let’s dive in.

Behold, the AE86 H2 Concept and the AE86 BEV Concept. You can probably guess which is which from the graphics you see below:

I feel like these cars should need no introduction around here, but just in case: the AE86 was the early-mid 1980s iteration of the Corolla, and the last of the rear-wheel-drive Corollas. Their punchy twin-cam engines, low weight, superb weight balance, RWD setup and low sticker prices made them iconic as cheap drift cars. A Sprinter Trueno is famously the star of the Initial D street racing anime and media franchise, and AE86s are still even seen in Formula Drift today. It’s where the GR 86 name comes from too. In case you don’t know, this humble hatch remains a big deal in Toyota’s performance car and motorsports history, even if it was never a king of straight-line speed.

Toyota honored them today by dropping two converted Hachiroku cars on us at the Salon, and they are both as innovative as they are rad. The fixed headlamp version, a Corolla Levin, runs on battery power, while the pop-up headlamp Sprinter Trueno version is the hydrogen one.

Here’s what Toyota had to say about the Sprinter, which is powered by hydrogen because Toyota just can’t quit hydrogen:

By utilizing the knowledge acquired by “making ever-better motorsports-bred cars” as put into practice by TGR and ROOKIE Racing in Japan’s Super Taikyu Series, TGR has developed a vehicle that can be driven while enjoying the internal combustion engine’s appeal points of sound and vibration. For this, two Toyota Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle high-pressure hydrogen storage tanks are mounted in the rear, and other modifications, including fuel injectors, fuel pipes, and spark plugs, have been kept to the minimum.

Also, the battery-powered Levin, complete with some guts from much newer Toyota hybrids:

Utilizing the electrification technologies cultivated by Lexus, the AE86’s body, light weight, and front-rear weight balance were maintained as much as possible, while the robust driving force characteristic of a battery electric vehicle (BEV) and a manual transmission were adopted to develop a vehicle that offers even greater driving pleasure than the original. The vehicle also makes maximum use of the electrification technology of existing commercially sold vehicles, employing a Tundra HEV electric motor, a Prius PHEV battery, and others.

And yes, both of them kept their manual gearboxes. We love to see it!

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Besides the powertrain stuff, here’s something else I think is fun: the seats have been refurbished and the seatbelts and seatbelt pads were made from recycled materials, so it’s got an element of sustainability throughout.

Of course, that is before all the tire-squealing sideways action, which these cars remain extremely capable of. Check out this promo video, but be advised it’s in Japanese:

Look at them go! Hopefully a subtitled version will debut soon because I’d love to know more about both of these builds.

Apparently, the “theme” of Toyota and Lexus at this year’s salon is “Toyota will not leave anyone who loves cars.” I think that’s delightful, personally, and if Toyota needs any Western journalists to see what these two can do, we at The Autopian volunteer.

They just need to bring the hydrogen. We ran out weeks ago.

Stay tuned for more Tokyo Auto Salon coverage as it develops.

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23 Responses

  1. Kinda hard to tell with the audio constantly mixing between interior and exterior sounds but it seems like they’ve given the BEV piped-into-the-cabin fake-ICE noises (listen at 13:55) – but I actually don’t hate it, given the manual gearbox and the (historical) importance of revs when drifting.

  2. “Hi friends! Goldie Wilson III for Wilson Restomod Conversion Systems. I’ll convert your 80’s or 90’s automotive icon to run on pure gigawatts! For only $39,999.95. So come on down and see me, Goldie Wilson III, at any one of our 29 convenient locations.” *Hydrogen conversion not available on Ford Explorer.

  3. “…so it’s got an element of sustainability throughout.
    Of course, that is before all the tire-squealing sideways action…”

    I was lucky enough to be one of the custom car judges for the Auto Salon for a couple of years back in the early 2000s, and Keiichi Tsuchiya was the lead judge the second time around. At dinner, after the judging was over, other judges were plying him with questions about the drift scene, and one of them asked how long the tyres last.
    His answer: “They hold up pretty well! You can get at least 30km out of one set!!”

    1. I managed to do an entire season of the British Drift Chapionship with just two pairs of rear tyres on my MX5 turbo. I’m not sure how many miles that was, but probably not much more than 30km/18 miles a set. It’s kind of hard to say as the miles are measured on the rear wheels, but the actual distance you travel is significantly shorter.

      On a practice day I could smoke through four pairs of rear tyres no problem, and I knew a guy who wore out his new rear tyres on just his out lap at Silverstone.

  4. There is nothing more irritating to me than the use of the word “drop” to mean its own opposite.

    When I read the headline, I thought to myself: “Hmm, I didn’t even know that Toyota made hydrogen and electric versions of the ’86; no wonder they’re dropping them from the lineup — they weren’t publicized well to begin with.”

    Then I realized: “Oh, you’re trying to be cool like a hip-hop artist who just ‘dropped’ a new album, and I’m turning into a grumpy old man who yells at clouds.”

    1. If it makes you feel any better, I’m almost certainly showing my age (old-ass millennial with back and knee pain) by saying that. I doubt even the teens use it anymore.

      1. It’s all good PG. I’m not as crabby about it now that I’ve had my coffee (and I now realize that the GR86 and AE86 are very different cars).

        It’s worst in the context of a streaming service. I’ve read headlines that state: “Netflix is Dropping Season X of {Critically Acclaimed Series}” and think: “Shoot! I haven’t even finished Season X-1 of {Critically Acclaimed Series}! I had better hurry up and binge it before the next one disappears!” only to realize later that “dropping” means “adding”.

    1. Nope… Hydrogen is not The panacea you seek. Net Energy loss in creating Hydrogen for use as a ‘fuel’, and it’s still created from dead Dinosaur juice/fumes…

      1. “Net energy loss in creating hydrogen for use as a fuel.”

        Er… duh? Why does this copy-pasted statement keep popping up? Regular hydrocarbon fuels are, in a net lifecycle sense, energy losses. Biofuels are net energy losses. BEVs are net energy losses. All fuels are net energy losses because the Laws of Thermodynamics have an unbreakable grip on physics. Portable energy sources will always incur an energy penalty for the sake of being portable.

        “still created from dead Dinosaur juice/fumes… ”
        Again… duh? The oil and chemical industries are also the biggest users of hydrogen, they already have lots of methane available and processes to deal with it, it makes economic sense for them to use what they have on hand. But currently there is very little commercial production of LH2 as a fuel, and if your goal is commercial production of hydrogen fuels with an emphasis on carbon neutrality, you generate LH2 via electrolysis using renewable energy. Pointing out that current non-fuel uses generate their hydrogen in a different way is not the gotcha you think it is.

        1. There are basically only problems with hydrogen with very little benefit

          Assuming you have green energy to start (already a problem but let’s good over this first)

          Electrolysis + compression/cooling off the resultant hydrogen to get it into a form you can put into a vehicle already loses something like 30% of the energy you started out with. I think theoretically you might be able to get to something like only losing 10-15%but in reality it’s 30 something. This compares terribly with something like charging a battery where you’re losing something like 5%.

          Once you have the hydrogen stored, you can’t really keep it in the tank for a long time. Liquid hydrogen will boil off and need to be vented, G compressed hydrogen has a tendency to leak through basically everything. (batteries lose charge while dormant too, but not at nearly the same pace, not even cost)

          When you go and use the hydrogen, if you use it in a fuel cell, you only get efficiency of something like 40-60% and if you oust it on combustion you get maybe 30-50% (then lose another what 10-20% through the transmission/differentials) depending on what engine you are using… This also compares poorly with a BEV which is for all intents and purposes 95%+ from battery to the tires.

          With both types of hydrogen drivetrain, you lose the benefit of regenerative braking a BEV gets, which is depending on city/highway driving either a HUGE deal, or irrelevant.

          Hydrogen is for all intents and purposes a “battery” and not a very good one. The main thing that BEVs underperform vs hydrogen fcv on is charging time. Range they’re pretty much neck and neck but given how hydrogen infrastructure basically doesn’t exist and building it out ONLY “benefits” hydrogen cars (whereas improving the electric grid benefits all users of electricity)… It’s not much of a benefit to say you can fill up a hydrogen tank quickly.

          The weight argument also isn’t really that huge a deal when we’re taking about cars. The volumetric energy density however is something that can’t be as easily ignored

    1. Port injection with hydrogen will yield something like 70%the power of whatever a gas car would make simply because hydrogen will displace air in the combustion chamber, meaning each stroke of the poison has less oxygen you can use.

      For the Hydrogen fuel cell car its just limited by how powerful a motor you can shove in.

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