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Japan's new combustion engines

Japan has complete faith in its innovative strength. And sees all-electric cars as a threat to its economy. In order not to rely exclusively on electric batteries in engines, the five largest vehicle manufacturers in Nippon have joined forces to develop an alternative to the zero-emission battery.

The cooperation, called "Team Japan", was presented during a race of cars with hydrogen burners. It would be hard to make a clearer case for the continuation of the internal combustion engine. There are many reasons: The one-sided dependence on just one technology, the lack of reliability, the lack of charging infrastructure and, of course, the pollutants that batteries and fuel cells release during production and disposal. Last but not least, many jobs depend on the combustion engine.

The five vehicle manufacturers Mazda, Kawasaki, Toyota, Yamaha and Subaru are now researching biodiesel, biomass fuel and hydrogen. Kawasaki and Yamaha are also developing a suitable hydrogen burner for motorbikes of all kinds. Hydrogen can be produced in an environmentally friendly way using renewable energy. Moreover, the advantage of this fuel is obvious: current engines would only have to be slightly adapted to be able to charge hydrogen and no single charging station would be needed in addition.

Toyota boss Toyoda (sic!) also doubts that batteries are the only way to combat climate change. The further development of the combustion engine towards a model that is even more environmentally friendly than batteries would also be good news for the more than five million jobs in Japan's automotive and supplier industry. The majority of these jobs still depend on the combustion engine. Toyoda does not see an all-electric vehicle as an ideal solution, not least because many workers would lose their jobs. He is not alone in this, because even the otherwise so modern Japanese society cannot really warm up to battery-powered vehicles yet. In fact, the share of e-cars is remarkably low in Japan. Only one percent of the cars on Japanese roads are electric. Too little for a traffic turnaround. However, if the development of new generations of internal combustion engines succeeds, the climate could benefit without causing social upheavals that jeopardise the transport revolution as a whole.

Should the Japanese research drive in alternative fuels succeed, Japan could well serve as a model for tackling the climate crisis pragmatically and not putting all its eggs in one basket, namely batteries.