Toyota tests technology that sucks CO2 out of atmosphere while driving

If the new engine gets improved, the world will forget about electric cars.

The Japanese carmaker Toyota has developed an engine that literally extracts the carbon dioxide emission from air while driving its hydrogen-powered racing model GR Corolla, which is used to test the technology.

According to a blog report on ToyotaTimes, the innovation is about employing special filters integrated into the vehicle front. The company, which does manufacture electric and hybrid cars, is looking yet for a different eco-friendly solution that avoids battery issues and customers’ annoyance with EV range and cost, potentially developing a vehicle that isn’t just CO2 neutral, but carbon negative. 

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The engine, which is currently slow and impractical, operates without additional power, utilizing circular filters to capture CO2, which is then dissolved into a liquid using engine waste heat for disposal.

Toyota envisages this system being applicable to regular combustion engines, suggesting a future where vehicles actively cleanse the air while in operation.

The recent tests show limited efficacy, with the filters capturing only 20 grams of CO2 over 20 laps (90 km). That’s better than nothing, but engines running on fossil fuels emit 8,887 grams of carbon dioxide per gallon they consume, on average. Scaling up the filters presents challenges in passenger vehicles, though commercial applications, like large trucks, may be more feasible.

A mechanic shows the filter used to extract carbon from air. Credit: Toyota

There are also concerns regarding the handling of the CO2-containing liquid and the inconvenience of manual filter changes during pit stops in the GR Corolla trials. Nor is it clear whether gasoline- and diesel-powered engines can be modified for this purpose.

Nevertheless, refining the technology to passively extract CO2 during vehicle operation could represent a significant environmental advancement. If Toyota succeeds with this project, the car industry – and perhaps other transportation-building sectors, too – could dump the EV concept entirely and endow their products with CO2 cleansing filters.

Company officials estimated recently that the market share of electric vehicles would constitute maximum 30% of vehicles sold in the future. 

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