Toyota Diesel: 2020 Hilux
(Photo/Toyota UK)

US Hilux? Toyota Poised to Launch Diesel Trucks in America

Curious behavior from Toyota signals it might be prepping to introduce diesel engines in America. The brand’s first hybrid diesel may also land.

If you’re a dirtbag, or even a dirtbag-adjacent person, like a digital nomad or an off-road traveleris there a more ubiquitous tool of the trade than the Toyota Tacoma? It, and its international cousin, the Hilux, have transported generations of adventurers. Now, Toyota looks like it’s preparing to give its U.S. arm a diesel, and possibly a hybrid, update.

As many across the industry abandon diesel for the electric revolution, Toyota opts to hang on to diesel and even hints at melding the two systems. The legendary Hilux already features an array of turbodiesels. And now, a United States patent and an odd YouTube video by Toyota USA suggest the old-school fuel may be on its way here.

That mixture, along with several other juicy bits that rumormongers have snatched up, has ignited a buzz. Are we about to see a diesel — or even a diesel hybrid — Tacoma and Tundra?

Patent Points to Toyota Diesel Powerplant

Toyota Diesel: 2020 Hilux
The Toyota Hilux, with a diesel powerplant that might be headed stateside. (Photo/Toyota UK)

Late in 2019, Toyota filed U.S. Patent No. US20200208601A1 for an internal combustion engine. Last summer, it got published, and it’s currently pending. If it sees production, the language strongly suggests it will run on diesel.

According to industry heads, it displays high-compression technology, emphasizing one chief upside: “suppression of smoke and improvement of ignitability.” Anyone who’s owned a traditional diesel engine knows those are common issues associated with the fuel.

There’s speculation that Toyota’s driving at eliminating a particulate filter (DPF) and exhaust fluid (DEF), which would certainly make a splash.

The document also appears to suggest an alternative to glow plugs involving a heater and a system of ducts in the injection nozzle. I don’t know everything about diesel engines, but I do know that if you’ve never driven a diesel, you’ve never used glow plugs — simple as that.

Toyota Educates Americans on Diesel Engines

We might not know much more about the patent hubbub until it lands and/or Toyota offers more explanation. But placing it alongside the brand’s recent YouTube video results in an enticing pairing. In it, the narrator explains the rudiments of diesel engines.

“What for?” you might be wondering. Certainly not entertainment. The video moves the needle about as much as anything you watched on the tall TV stand in high school. At one point, the voice even prompts a discussion with, “If you remember your science classes …”

What’s interesting to us is that it 1) leads off with a warning against interchanging diesel with gas and 2) later delves into why diesel engines have higher compression ratios than gas (see patent).

Will the 2022 Tacoma Get the Hilux Treatment?

Toyota Diesel: the 2020 Hilux
Industry buzz points to diesel and diesel hybrids potentially powering Tacomas and Tundras. Overseas Hilux models currently come with turbodiesel engines. (Photo/Toyota UK)

The 2022 Toyota Hilux has a 2.8L 1GD-FTV I-4 turbodiesel with 174 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The turbodiesel impresses in the crawl: Full torque is available as low as 1,200 RPM. Alternatively, a small-displacement 2.4L engine provides 148 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.

As well, a new Hilux hybrid is on the way. The electrification will beef up the truck’s specs, generating 200 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque.

All this news has set stateside Hilux enthusiasts (who must live out their dreams in Tacomas) a-twitter. Where does the 2022 Tacoma fit in? For now, it doesn’t. The truck was still only set to get the standard four- and six-cylinder gas engines at press time.

But rumors about a turbodiesel for the Tacoma have circulated for some time. And the status of Toyota’s new patent could change the game. It’s doubtful at best that any major brand would make any major announcement without shoring up its legal concerns first.

And to speak purely off the cuff: You wouldn’t just wade through a 2-year patent process and produce a weird video about diesel technology for nothing, would you?

What About a Hybrid? Where the Tundra Fits In

One notable ripple effect of the rise of the electric engine is the death of the V8. That’s what’s happening at Toyota, which started phasing out V8 production over a year ago in a highly publicized move.

The change is significant because it means the 2022 Tundra will get a new powerplant. If you’re going to build a full-size truck without eight cylinders, the problem becomes power. To solve it, reducing weight and increasing compression begin to look attractive.

That’s why it looks like the Tundra will be the United States’ Toyota diesel hybrid if there’s going to be one. The high torque requirements of a truck that can compete in the U.S. market point directly to a diesel alternative. And a hybrid platform would add a tasty pedigree, worthy of Toyota’s tech-savvy reputation.

Furthermore, Toyota looks to be developing a diesel hybrid for the new Land Cruiser, among other utility vehicles, in Japan. Historically, the Land Cruiser has shared engine characteristics with the Tundra.

But why should we believe any of this will happen? For one thing, there’s the new Tundra engine teaser. The 7-second video shows six ribs on the engine cover (not surprising) and a blue-outlined MAX badge.

What does that mean? Nothing, technically. But the six ribs clearly suggest six cylinders, and outlets far and wide say the hued lettering (never before seen) indicates hybrid tech.

The Upshot: A Refusal to Predict a Toyota Diesel We Would Be Excited to See

Totota Diesel: 2020 Hilux
Replace this badge with “Tacoma” or “Tundra” and what do you have? Probably a bestseller. (Photo/Toyota UK)

At the end of the day, it’s still impossible to say what Toyota’s 2022 truck powerplant lineup will look like. But any additional fidelity between the Hilux and the Tacoma would be celebrated here in the states — and the possibilities of a Toyota diesel hybrid are interesting, to say the least.

The electric revolution is coming — will Toyota bring diesel along to the party?

Sam Anderson

Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.