Hydrogen-powered Toyota Corolla catches fire during test session

By Colin Wood
Mar 15, 2023 | Toyota, Corolla, Hydrogen, Liquid Hydrogen, GR Corolla H2 Concept

Photograph Courtesy Toyota

Toyota announced today that its liquid hydrogen-powered ORC Rookie GR Corolla H2 Concept will not be competing in round 1 of the ENEOS Super Taikyu Series 2023 at Suzuka this weekend following a vehicle fire during a test session:

During a private test run at Fuji International Speedway on March 8, a vehicle fire occurred due to a hydrogen leak from a gaseous hydrogen pipe in the engine compartment. Consequently, we could not recover the vehicle in time and were forced to abandon the race.

Toyota makes it a point to note the cause of the issue, stating that the fire “was not directly caused by the fuel change from gaseous hydrogen to liquid hydrogen. The cause is seen to be the loosening of a piping joint from vehicle vibration, resulting in a hydrogen leak. As the piping joint is located near the engine, the leaked hydrogen ignited when heated.”

[Hydrogen as a fuel? Inside the technology Toyota is developing]

The good news seems to be that the car’s hydrogen leak sensor fail-safe functioned correctly, automatically shutting off the supply of liquid hydrogen as soon as a leak was detected.

Toyota plans to compete with the gas-powered ORC ROOKIE GR Yaris for the upcoming race at Suzuka, with hopes of entering more races with the hydrogen-powered race car at a later date.

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Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
3/15/23 11:23 a.m.

It's a bummer for sure, but I'm just glad that the fail-safe worked as intended.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/15/23 2:08 p.m.

So the problem isn't that it was liquid H2 in the tank, the problem was simply that it was H2 of any sort. H2 is really, really, really, really difficult to keep from leaking because it's a tiny molecule. And when it leaks, it loves to party.

thewheelman Reader
3/15/23 2:32 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

In a previous life, I built CNG (larger molecule than H2) vehicles, and even they were tough to keep leak-free. We had vendors that would test their sub-assemblies with nitrogen (even larger moleclue) before shipping to us, and we would have to re-check everything before installing. 

Couple the small molecule size and wide combustiblity range (4-74 percent) of hydrogen, and things can get very burn-ey very fast. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/15/23 2:35 p.m.

In reply to thewheelman :

And the high vibration environment of a car, just for fun.

gsettle New Reader
3/15/23 2:39 p.m.

Wonder what kind of fittings/hose/ piping they used in that car?

My go to is Russell laugh

j_tso Dork
3/15/23 2:56 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

In reply to thewheelman :

And the high vibration environment of a car, just for fun.

and it's a 3 cylinder on top of that

Noddaz GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/15/23 4:01 p.m.

Hindenburg jokes in 5, 4, 3....

thewheelman Reader
3/15/23 4:12 p.m.

In reply to gsettle :

In my time, we really wanted to use JIC/AN fittings, but because we used stainless steel there were lots of issues with galling. In practice, face seal and compression fittings are where it's at for gaseous fuels, especially on the high pressure side. Honestly, even pipe thread works better at high pressure than JIC/AN. Low pressure is a different story; just about anything works. We used lots of cool russel adapters when we were able to reuse factory fuel rails. 

Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/15/23 9:00 p.m.

Yeah, I really don't get Toyota's infatuation with Hydrogen. 5-10,000 psi of a highly flammable substance in cars that get old, get serviced by the occasional moron, get in accidents, et cetera. I mean if the stuff was cheap to extract, it would be a little more desirable, but given that it's not......

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
3/15/23 9:30 p.m.
Noddaz said:

Hindenburg jokes in 5, 4, 3....

Oh, the humanity!

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