The New Toyota Engines Are Smaller but Better



Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda predicts battery-powered electric vehicles will never exceed a 30-percent market share. He also believes the internal combustion engine is not the enemy, but rather the carbon it spits out. With that in mind, it is no surprise that the Japanese automaker is still pursuing ICEs. A new family of inline-four engines was announced this week. Here’s everything we know about them.

These will run on the usual fossil fuels but also carbon-neutral fuels such as liquid hydrogen, synthetic fuel, and biofuel. No fewer than three engines were revealed during the joint conference Toyota held with Mazda and Subaru. There’s a new naturally aspirated 1.5-liter unit about 10 percent smaller in volume and height compared to the current engine. Not only is it going to be more powerful, but also more efficient. A weight loss of around 10 percent is promised.

Specific details about output and fuel economy have yet to be released since the four-pot is still being developed. Toyota did install it inside a Prius prototype and showcased it separately as well. The company goes as far as to say its new engines will “revolutionize vehicle packaging” thanks to their reduced footprint. By making them smaller, Toyota can lower a car’s hood, making it more aerodynamic to further bolster fuel economy.

The second engine in the works is a turbocharged 1.5-liter mill. It’ll be 20 percent smaller in volume than the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter currently in use. At the same time, height will be reduced by 15 percent. It’s going to be roughly as powerful but with a major boost in efficiency of approximately 30 percent.

The most potent of the bunch will be a turbocharged 2.0-liter unit. Compared to the existing 2.4-liter turbo engine, the new unit has a 10-percent smaller volume and benefits from a height reduction of 10 percent. Toyota pledges significantly more power and 30 percent greater efficiency.

As you can imagine, the new engines are optimized for hybrid and plug-in hybrid applications. The Financial Times cites a person familiar with Toyota’s agenda saying the inline-fours will debut in electrified cars near the end of 2026. Interestingly, some variations of the engines are going to burn diesel as well, according to FT.

As to why the automotive juggernaut is teaming up with Subaru and Mazda, it makes perfect sense when you think about it. Toyota owns a 20-percent stake in Subaru and five percent in Mazda. That said, these new engines are being engineered for Toyota models. Subaru is working on a next-gen hybrid setup based around its boxer engine while Mazda is pouring more money into its rotary engine serving as a generator.

Separately from the announcement of new engines for so-called “electric-rich” hybrids and PHEVs, Toyota is considering setting up a carbon-neutral fuel supply chain. To make it happen, it’s joining forces with Japanese petroleum company Idemitsu Kosan, the country’s largest oil company Eneos, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The intent is to keep internal combustion engines alive for the long haul through decarbonization.


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