Classic Toyota AE86 sports coupés get electric and hydrogen drives

Classic Toyota AE86 sports coupés get electric and hydrogen drives

Toyota has equipped two examples of the legendary Corolla AE86 coupe from the 1980s with modern electric and hydrogen powertrains.


Japanese car giant Toyota has unveiled two classic concept vehicles to reassure car enthusiasts that they will not be left behind in the electric age – by outfitting two examples of 1980s Corolla AE86 coupes with hydrogen and electric powertrains.

According to Toyota, unveiled today at the Tokyo Auto Salon auto show, the cars show how they plan to keep old collector cars on the road by infusing them with modern zero-emission power.

One of the cars will be powered solely by batteries – while the other uses a petrol engine converted to hydrogen.



While the two AE86s are concepts for now, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda suggested in a presentation that the hydrogen and electric systems could eventually become available as conversion packages for existing cars.

“Many automakers are aiming for a 100 percent switch to battery electric vehicles between 2030 and 2040. However, the reality is that we cannot achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050 by simply switching all new car sales to [electric]’ Mr Toyoda told the crowd.

“We have to think about it [cars] in operation. In other words, it’s important to offer options for other cars that someone already owns.



“Although the AE86 conversion technology still has many more improvements and advancements to make, with our message to car enthusiasts today, I want to allay fears that if we go carbon neutral, we won’t be able to drive our beloved cars,” the executive said.

The converted cars on display are based on various variants of the AE86, the name given to a range of rear-wheel drive Toyota Corolla coupes sold in the mid-1980s.

With rear-wheel drive, high-revving engine, low price and its easy modification, the AE86 became a favorite for circuit racing or drifting – and starred in Japan’s icon Initial D 1990’s “manga” comic series in which the main character road races an AE86 on the mountainous roads of Japan.



The hydrogen concept – known as the ‘AE86 H2 Concept’ and based on a ‘Trueno’ version of the AE86 – converts the original car’s fan-favorite 1.6-litre four-cylinder ‘4A-GE’ petrol engine to run on hydrogen Fuel.

Hydrogen is stored in two tanks at the rear of the car – taken from a Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell electric car – while minimal modifications have been made to the engine, consisting of new injectors, fuel lines and spark plugs.

According to Toyota, the AE86 H2 Concept “can be driven while enjoying the combustion engine’s pain points in terms of noise and vibration”.



Meanwhile, the AE86 BEV Concept – based on a “Levin” variant of the car – ditches the 4A-GE engine and goes electric, with an electric motor from a Toyota Tundra hybrid pickup and a battery pack from the latest Prius Plug -in Hybrid.

But the five-speed manual transmission remains, according to Toyota, for “more driving pleasure”.



The decision to use Tundra and Prius components means performance will be modest – the electric motor develops 36 kW and 250 Nm in the Tundra, while the battery stores 13.6 kWh, or less than a quarter of a base Tesla Model 3 can.

Toyota says it has “retained as much as possible” the AE86’s “bodywork, light weight and front-to-rear weight balance” – but it doesn’t give a specific weight figure. The original petrol AE86 weighed around 900 kg to 1000 kg.

Both electrified AE86 show cars also feature “rejuvenated” used Bride racing seats from older cars – rather than using raw materials to make new seats – while the seat belts and seat belt pads are said to be made from recycled materials.

There is no confirmation that the hydrogen and electric propulsion systems in the AE86 concepts will make it into production – however Mr Toyoda’s comments suggest that this is being considered.

For new car buyers, Toyota is working on a full lineup of hybrid, hydrogen and electric cars – but it’s yet to be confirmed if electrified performance will be handled by its performance brand, Gazoo Racing.

Alex Misoyannis

Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017 when he launched his own website Redline. He worked for Drive in 2018 before joining CarAdvice in 2019 and becoming a regular journalist on the news team in 2020. Cars have played a central role in Alex’s life, from leafing through car magazines at a young age to growing up surrounded by performance vehicles in a car-loving family.

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