Restored 1980’s Toyota Corolla GT-S swapped with EV and hydrogen powertrains

Toyota has restored examples of the 1980s Corolla GT-S with battery-electric and hydrogen powertrains as part of a plan to extend the lifespan of classic cars.

The two concepts, which were presented at the Tokyo Auto Salon 2023 last weekend, are intended to show how older vehicles – especially collector’s cars – can stay on the road even with stricter emission standards.

“The reality is that we cannot achieve zero carbon emissions in 2050 by simply switching all new car sales to electric vehicles,” Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda said in a speech at the opening of the Tokyo Auto Salon, pointing to a corporate goal to reduce emissions. Indeed, given the slow rate of turnover of global vehicle fleets, older internal combustion engine vehicles will remain on the road long after sales of new vehicles have shifted to electric vehicles.

Toyota AE86 BEV Concept

Toyota AE86 BEV Concept

That means emissions from these older vehicles are also targeted, and that’s where the two Corolla concepts come in. With rear-wheel drive and an endlessly tunable engine, this version of the Corolla, known by the internal model code AE86, is a favorite of tuners and namesake of the modern-day Toyota GR86 sports car. It’s the kind of car enthusiast they want to keep.

“I hope to allay the fear that if we go carbon neutral, we won’t be able to drive our beloved cars,” Toyoda said. “On the contrary, there is a CO2-neutral path that car enthusiasts can take.”

The concept pair shows two different ways to lower emissions. One car, the AE86 BEV concept, swaps the standard inline-4 for an electric motor from a Toyota Tundra hybrid and a battery pack from a Prius Prime plug-in hybrid. It does retain the standard manual transmission, however, and the engineers also tried to keep the weight distribution close to stock, according to Toyota.

Toyota AE86 H2 Concept

Toyota AE86 H2 Concept

Other automakers have toyed with EV conversions, from the Chevrolet E-10 and Blazer-E to Jaguar’s electric E-Type models. Mini started an EV program in 2022 for the originally Issigonis-designed Mini from its UK factory.

The second concept, dubbed the AE86 H2, retains the standard engine and powertrain, but runs on hydrogen stored in two high-pressure tanks of a Toyota Mirai fuel cell vehicle instead of petrol.

Toyota has tested hydrogen combustion in racing and developed a prototype hydrogen V-8, but it’s not the first automaker to try the idea. In the early 2000s, BMW produced the Hydrogen 7, a 7 Series sedan with a hydrogen V-12. However, no automaker seems to have solved the inherent efficiency problems of hydrogen internal combustion engines, so it’s unclear if they’ll ever go mainstream.