Make / Model Search

Car reviews - Toyota - Hiace - Hydrogen


We like
Cheaper alternative to FCEV and BEV alternatives; supply chain can remain virtually unaltered, almost as simple to operate as ICE vehicle; no lengthy charging times; unchanged packaging
Room for improvement
Lacks power and torque; engine slow to develop revs; start-up and shut-down quirks; limited range and accessibility to infrastructure; price, safety, and reliability aspects an unknown

Hydrogen power, but not as we know it… HiAce Commuter H2 a ‘cost effective’ green solution

23 Nov 2023



EARLIER this month, Toyota Australia detailed plans of a prototype hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engine powered (H2-ICE) HiAce Commuter being tested Down Under as part of an international pilot program it says will form yet another piece of its decarbonisation puzzle.


During the media unveiling, selected Australian journalists were offered the opportunity to drive and assess the HiAce Commuter H2 at Toyota Australia’s Autodrome – a short test track once used as part of a quality control program for the locally-built Camry.


Utilising a converted V35A-series 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 (petrol) engine offered in the HiAce in other markets, the ‘H2’ version is differentiated only by bespoke injectors and a diesel-like SCR exhaust arrangement with AdBlue injection. Fuel is stored in a trio of hydrogen tanks set beneath the floor of the vehicle – the same found in the Toyota Mirai FCEV.


The HiAce Commuter H2 runs the same 10-speed automatic transmission as found in other markets (the pairing nearly identical to that of the locally available LandCruiser 300 Series) and drives the rear wheels. Maximum power is rated at 120kW (185kW less than the petrol equivalent) and 354Nm (-296Nm).


Toyota has yet to provide fuel consumption or emission figures but says the hydrogen powertrain fitted to the HiAce Commuter H2 results in almost zero CO2 tailpipe emissions, with the process of igniting hydrogen in the engine generating small amounts of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), which are reduced by the selective catalytic reduction system.


Beyond the driveline, Toyota says the 12-seat HiAce Commuter was selected for the prototype program for packaging reasons, the large van offering the opportunity to install the engine up front and the hydrogen tanks under the floor, ensuring minimal impact on space and payload.


Given range limitations of the prototype (limited to approximately 200km), it is currently best suited to worksite and shorter back-to-base operations.


Driving Impressions


If it looks like a HiAce Commuter, and sounds like a HiAce Commuter, chances are it’s a HiAce Commuter, right?


Well, almost.


You see, aside from the billboard-sized vinyl advertisement plastered over the prototype model, this HiAce Commuter is hydrogen powered. Not a fuel-cell electric vehicle kind of hydrogen offering, but an easily converted, spark ignition combustion engine kind of hydrogen offering that is far less costly to develop and sell.


That point alone is said to make this particular vehicle one that will form a very important part of Toyota’s multifaceted approach to reducing vehicular emissions. It’s an almost off-the-shelf solution which, provided the infrastructure is available, can be sold in just about any market across the globe.


Okay, we might be getting a little ahead of ourselves – this is a prototype after all; and one that needs a lot more power, torque, and range if it is to compete on a level footing with traditional ICE powered offerings.


Starting the H2-ICE engine sees a momentary delay before the driveline declares itself ‘Ready’ for use. The system check takes about as long as it did to warm a set of glow plugs back in the day, and from thereon in the process is as simple as hitting the starter, selecting Drive, and setting off.


The driveline is a little laggy on step off, and slower to build revs that its petrol equivalent. Toyota says it will address both issues over the course of the unit’s development but has for now decided to run a somewhat pessimistic tune, at least until it perfects the technology.


Working our way around the Autodrome course there is little in the way of feedback to suggest the HiAce is anything other than a slower version of itself. It is equally quiet, responds similarly to throttle inputs, and maintains much the same transmission shift points as the petrol unit would (based on impressions in other applications, of course).


It also offers similar retardation when releasing the throttle, and “cuts back to idle” in much the same way a petrol engine would. In short, there’s very little besides the lack of pace to identify the operation of the H2-ICE engine from its petrol counterpart.


When it comes to switching the vehicle off, there is again a momentary delay. Turn the key to Off and the engine runs on for two or three seconds, purging any unburnt fuel from the lines. There is no special trick here, and you don’t need to wait with the car – it’s more an awareness of difference than anything else.


Under the bonnet the V6 looks much the same as it ought to, the addition of Hydrogen badging and a couple of additional wires the only discernible difference. Toyota engineers tell us the wires run to a series of “sniffers” located around the manifold and again at the hydrogen tanks aimed at discovering any leaks.


While we were unable to ascertain any fuel consumption tally, Toyota’s 200km range claim – and the lower-than-average engine outputs – seem the only real sticking point in providing an alternative to fossil fuels.


If hydrogen is sourced in a sustainable manner, and refuelling points made as commonplace as petrol and diesel bowsers, there is no reason a H2-ICE model line wouldn’t work a treat. We’ll watch with interest to see just how quickly that final piece of the puzzle takes to slot into place.

Read more

Click to share

Click below to follow us on
Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

GoAuto can help you buy a new Hiace

Customer Terms and Conditions – New Car Lead enquires


This is an agreement between GoAutoMedia Pty Limited ACN 094 732 457 of PO Box 18, Beach Road, Sandringham, VIC, 3191 (“we/us”), the owner and operator of the GoAuto.com.au website (“the website”) and the person wanting GoAuto.com.au to provide them with a lead for the purchase of a new car (“you”).

By completing a New Car Lead Enquiry, you agree to the terms and conditions and disclaimers and acknowledge the policies set out below.

Terms and Conditions

  • In order for us to effect a lead you must you must complete a New Car Lead Enquiry (“Enquiry”).
  • We will call you as soon as possible after you complete the Enquiry and certainly no later than the next business day. When we call, we will discuss with you your new car requirements.
  • You consent to our passing on the Enquiry and your requirements to an appropriate authorised motor car dealer as a lead.
  • We will contact you again in approximately eight days following your initial enquiry to check on the progress of the Enquiry.
  • While we will provide the dealer with the Enquiry and details of your new car requirements, we take no responsibility for what happens after passing on that material as a lead.
  • You acknowledge that we are a new car information service providing new car editorial information, pictures and prices to our customers as a guide only. Any new car prices published on the website are the manufacturers’ recommended retail prices and do not include delivery charges and on-road costs. Any authorized motor car dealer to which we pass on your Enquiry as a lead will provide you with full details of the price at which the vehicle will be sold to you.
  • You acknowledge that we do not sell motor vehicles. Any sale of a new car to you by a dealer after we have passed on your Enquiry to that dealer as a lead, is a sale by that dealer not by us.

Privacy Policy– New Car Lead Enquires

  • We take privacy very seriously. We understand that you will only complete an Enquiry if you can trust us to protect your personal information and use it appropriately. Our policy is to ensure that the personal information collected when you make an Enquiry is only used for the purposes of connecting you with an authorised motor car dealer.
  • We do not on-sell information collected from you or any other customer.
  • From time to time, we may email you with information or promotions that may be relevant for car buyers. You will continue to receive communications from us unless you tell us that you do not want to receive any advertising or promotional information in the future by unsubscribing from these communications.
* Denotes required field
** Australian inquiries only

Hiace pricing

Motor industry news

GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.

Catch up on all of the latest industry news with this week's edition of GoAutoNews
Click here