As seen on:

SMH Logo News Logo

Call 1300 303 181

Australia’s Best New Car News, Reviews and Buying Advice

Hydrogen-Fuelled Hiace Van Tested for Light Commercial Duties

Fancy a new van for the business?  Like, I mean a really cool new van that runs on hydrogen… Well, this fancy might just be getting fulfilled a little sooner thanks to some Australian business owners who have been given a Toyota Hiace with a hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine (ICE).  Yes, that’s right – hydrogen ICE – like the old school ICEs but with new technology that can allow for the cleaner burning hydrogen fuel to be burned as a much cleaner option.

Toyota’s Hydrogen Hiace Van has been undergoing testing by local businesses to see how the hydrogen ICE performs and fulfils its role for powering the Toyota Hiace van while it carries out its daily duties in the real world.  If the testing goes well, showing that Toyota’s new Hydrogen ICE is a goodie, then the legendary car manufacturer will set about putting these sorts of vehicles into production. 

Let’s start with what’s under the bonnet?

Toyota has designed and built the van’s hydrogen ICE, which is based on the V6 turbo-petrol ICE used in the Land Cruiser 300 model series.  The LX600’s 10-speed automatic transmission has been retained in the test van, but it runs with rear-wheel-drive rather than the Land Cruiser’s all-wheel drive system.  In petrol form, the V6 is able to pump out 305 kW of power and 650 Nm of torque.  In hydrogen form, with the relatively minor changes, the motor puts out a decent 120 kW and 354 Nm.  Toyota engineers deliberately matched the 120-kW output found in the standard Hiace 2.8-litre turbodiesel that is currently for sale.  The diesel unit provides 66 Nm more torque; however, the new hydrogen ICE prototype’s output and torque sounds pretty decent for a Hiace van, which will be used primarily in business logistics and, obviously, as a trade van, which is classed in the light commercial segment. 

The hydrogen fuel is stored under the van’s floor in three tanks, which is good for a range of up to 200 km.  What about the emissions from the exhaust?  Tailpipe emissions amount to a little bit of nitrogen oxide, and that’s it.

So why hydrogen instead of an EV Hiace? 

There is the lack of emissions, but also the fact that a hydrogen Hiace van can theoretically be put into production quickly without any major changes to Toyota’s supply chain, which make the hydrogen alternative desirable from a cost and logistical point of view.

There is also the fact that Toyota gurus, and other tests, have shown that electric vehicles lose a significant amount of range when they are fully loaded up, working hard, or used for towing.  Add in the fact that the van shape isn’t the most aerodynamic outline on the market, then we can see why an EV van starts to look a bit sketchy in the real world.  Hydrogen, as a fuel, is far more suited for a van that will work hard with heavy loads on board, run against headwinds, or be used for towing.  With hydrogen, the driving range is not as significantly impacted as what it is in an EV alternative, so the panic of running out of battery range in between jobs won’t be a concerning issue for your typical tradie – or the person waiting for the plumber to turn up to fix the loo.  

Toyota is likely to bring out an Electric Hiace anyway, but they would also like to be able to provide a hydrogen Hiace in the future as well; obviously not straight away, but for when the infrastructure for hydrogen refuelling does become a reality. 

On all accounts, it seems that it the prototype Toyota Hiace Hydrogen Van is capable of doing its job well, and really could be all ready for action at the drop of a hat or once the hydrogen infrastructure arrives.