Toyota AE86 BEV and H2 concepts revealed at 2023 Tokyo Auto Salon

A more sustainable future has many different strings, says Toyota. These AE86 concepts show how…

Toyota’s development of a manual transmission for use in EV powertrains is already being put into practice with the debut of a very interesting concept car at the 2023 Tokyo Auto Salon. Within the hallowed bodywork of the iconic Corolla AE86, Toyota’s engineers have fitted a battery pack and electric motor complete with a six-speed manual transmission. 

The Toyota AE86 BEV Concept features an electric motor borrowed from an American-market Tundra hybrid paired to the battery pack from a PHEV Prius. The electric motor isn’t a powerful one, rated at just 48bhp in the full-size Tundra pick-up truck, but torque stands at a much healthier 184lb ft, so works just fine as a proof of concept for the Tokyo show car.

Toyota hasn’t specified whether the concept uses a virtual manual transmission, like the one that’s being developed by Lexus, or a purely mechanical gearbox, but in either case it makes for a fascinating exercise in retaining the involvement that only a manual transmission can provide. Alongside the new powertrain hardware is a 13.6kWh battery pack that’s been mounted to effectively recreate the original AE86’s weight balance.

Alongside the BEV, Toyota also revealed a second AE86 concept, this time wearing the slightly different Trueno body and featuring an original powertrain converted to run on liquid hydrogen. Like most hydrogen combustion engines, little needs to be changed to suit with changes to the injection system, fuel lines and timing being the only modifications. In the case of the AE86 H2 Concept, it runs the same 16V 4A-GE DOHC 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, fuelled by compressed liquid hydrogen that’s stored within two carbonfibre-reinforced high-pressure tanks borrowed from the Mirai. Power is also driven through a manual transmission to the rear wheels.

> Click here for full info on Lexus's development of a EV fitted with a manual transmission

Toyota’s concurrent development of hydrogen combustion engines continues to push the technology forward after an initial spike of interest from other manufacturers like BMW and Hyundai in the mid-’90s. This is helping make them both more efficient and cost effective, while engineering out some critical flaws in their operation. This includes a substantial reduction in the emission of nitrogen oxides or NOx (ironically a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2) in the combustion process.

Carbon-neutral green hydrogen is also all-but eliminating the CO2 footprint of creating liquid hydrogen fuel in the first place, which has typically been an issue in liquid hydrogen applications in all sectors.

While these two cars are more ‘proof of concept’ than indication of a future production model, it does reiterate Toyota’s broad approach to reducing emissions and eventually completely decarbonising their models past, present and future.

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