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Toyota, Subaru and Mazda to Partner on Developing Carbon-Neutral Engines

Toyota Corolla Cross (hydrogen prototype) | Photo: Toyota
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Daniel Rufiange
The three automakers aren't abandoning electrification, but the are betting on a coexistence of different systems.

While automakers have committed to making huge investments in electrification, some are finding it wise to keep their foot in the door when it comes to gasoline engines.

Toyota Corolla Cross hydrogen prototype engine
Toyota Corolla Cross hydrogen prototype engine | Photo: Toyota

As part of that, there’s talk of carbon-neutral combustion engines. In particular, Toyota, Subaru and Mazda plan to join forces to develop new gasoline engines for the electric and carbon-neutral age. 

The companies say the new powertrains will incorporate electric elements – which would suggest they’re focusing on hybrid and plug-in hybrid solutions. However, achieving carbon neutrality will require going further. Hence the plan to “decarbonize ICEs by making them compatible with various carbon-neutral fuels.” This could be a combination of liquid hydrogen, synthetic fuels or other solutions. 

If there's one thing the three automakers have in common, it's their philosophy towards electrification. The companies want to meet the needs of consumers across the planet, which will be impossible to do with electric vehicles alone. Any automaker offering only electric models in 2035 will be meeting demand in certain countries but not in other markets slower to the electrification uptake.

The three also see the carbon problem in a certain light. For them, the combustion engine is not the enemy - carbon emissions are. Toyota has already extolled the virtues of hydrogen-powered combustion engines in motorsport. Mazda is also using motorsport to experiment with alternative fuels, for instance the biodiesel-powered Mazda 3 Gr.4. 

The 2024 Mazda3 Sport
The 2024 Mazda3 Sport | Photo: D.Boshouwers

Mazda plans to reintroduce rotary engines as part of its search for carbon-neutral solutions. These engines will probably produce little or no CO2 emissions, thanks to electrification and alternative fuels. There’s speculation the new engines will be much smaller, enabling designers to create even more aerodynamic and energy-efficient models. 

Clearly, we're seeing a different kind of car in the future. And it's important to mention that the three automakers aren't abandoning electrification; they just see a world where different solutions will rub shoulders, with carbon-neutral combustion engines part of the mix. 


Subaru logo
Subaru logo | Photo: D.Boshouwers

The heads of all three companies made similar statements about the need to reduce their footprint, but also to meet customer needs. As Subaru CEO Atsushi Osaki put it, “Achieving a carbon-neutral society is a challenge that must be taken up by all Japanese industries and society as a whole.”

Daniel Rufiange
Daniel Rufiange
Automotive expert
  • Over 17 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 75 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 250 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists