Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki join forces to develop hydrogen-powered engines

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has granted approval to the big four to develop hydrogen-powered engines for small mobility purposes.

Kawasaki, Suzuki, Honda and Yamaha have jointly announced that they have received approval from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to form a technological research association called HySE (Hydrogen Small mobility & Engine technology) for developing hydrogen-powered engines for small mobility. Notably, these four manufacturers have also collaborated on unified standards for upcoming electric two-wheelers.

While two-wheelers have not explicitly been mentioned, the background of the four manufacturers involved, as well as the wording of ‘small mobility’ suggests a strong focus on two-wheelers. HYSE has outlined the main R&D areas and the role of each company. Honda will undertake research on the model-based development of hydrogen-powered engines, Suzuki will conduct the element study on functionality, performance, and reliability of the hydrogen-powered engines, while Yamaha and Kawasaki will carry out hands-on research using real hydrogen-powered engines on their functionality, performance, and reliability.

Furthermore, Yamaha will also study the requirements for a hydrogen refuelling system and hydrogen tanks for small mobility, while Kawasaki Motors will study the auxiliary equipment required for a fuel supply system and tanks, and the equipment installed between the fuel tank and the injector.

In addition to these four full members, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Toyota Motor Corporation will support the association as special members. Kawasaki Heavy Industries, being one of the main organisers of the ‘CO2-free Hydrogen Energy Supply-chain Technology Research Association’ (HySTRA), will drive forward HySE’s activities, based on the knowledge gained from its activities for HySTRA. Toyota, on the other hand, will assume the role of leveraging HySE’s research results to the maximum benefit for the development of hydrogen-powered engines, utilising its know-how on experiments, analyses, and the designing of large hydrogen-fuelled power units for four-wheel vehicles. 

The use of hydrogen poses technical challenges, including fast flame speed and a large region of ignition, which often result in unstable combustion, and the limited fuel tank capacity in case of use in small mobility vehicles. In addressing these issues, the members of HySE say they “are committed to conducting fundamental research, capitalising on their wealth of expertise and technologies in developing gasoline-powered engines, and aim to work together with the joint mission of establishing a design standard for small mobility’s hydrogen-powered engine, and of advancing the fundamental research endeavours in this area.”

The Japanese automaker quartet plan to “continue to deepen their collaborative relations in order to provide a variety of small mobility options to users and meet their diverse needs, thereby contributing to the realisation of a decarbonised society.”

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