Lexus is looking at hydrogen for more than just fuel-cell passenger cars. As part of its recent LX reveal, the Toyota luxury brand showed off a UTV concept with a hydrogen-powered combustion engine.

Called the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle, or ROV, the off-roader burns hydrogen instead of gasoline or diesel. Lexus didn't provide much information, only showing off the ROV briefly during a recent online press conference.

The styling connection to Lexus' cars and SUVs is apparent, though, thanks to the outline of the controversial spindle grille at the front.

Hydrogen combustion engines haven't received as much attention as fuel cells, but Lexus parent Toyota is taking a closer look at the idea. The automaker earlier this year unveiled a race car with a hydrogen-fueled inline-3 engine, which competed in a Japanese endurance race.


Lexus ROV hydrogen UTV concept

Lexus ROV hydrogen UTV concept

The idea isn't new. In 2006, BMW unveiled a prototype 7-Series sedan with a hydrogen V-12 engine. The main modifications to convert the V-12 from gasoline to hydrogen involved fuel storage and fuel injectors.

Hydrogen combustion engines have their drawbacks, however. Burning hydrogen in a combustion engine produces nitrogen-oxide emissions, and the process of making hydrogen, distributing it, and transferring its energy to the wheels of a car is inherently inefficient.

That's why fuel-cell vehicles like the Toyota Mirai, which use hydrogen to generate electricity that then powers electric motors, have generally been the technology of choice for automakers. However, all types of hydrogen vehicles are limited by a lack of infrastructure to produce hydrogen, and a lack of fuel stations. Hydrogen production can also generate significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions if renewable energy isn't used.

That makes the future for fuel-cell passenger cars uncertain, and means it's unlikely that the Lexus ROV will see production. Toyota is taking a broader approach to hydrogen, though, which could still see it used in commercial trucks.