Honda’s been in the news lately with their hydrogen FCX Clarity, but Mazda’s been pushing the hydrogen envelope as well, and with a rotary engine car. They were actually trying to create a workable hydrogen rotary engine all the way back in the early 1990s. And by 2003 they actually developed a concept, dual fuel RX-8 capable of burning both high pressure hydrogen and gasoline in it’s rotary engine.
The dual fuel Mazda RX-8 Hydrogen RE (Rotary Engine) is exactly the type of vehicle that would be needed as a ‘stepping stone’ while a hydrogen re-fueling infrastructure is being built. The Renesis hydrogen engine puts out 210 hp when it’s running on gasoline and 110 hp running on hydrogen. In the city, where high speeds are less important, and where re-fueling stations would first start to pop up, drivers could switch to the more efficient but less-powerful hydrogen fuel. Meanwhile, the gasoline option could be used in remote areas with no hydrogen filling stations, where open roads would require higher speeds and more power.
A rotary engine is perfectly suited for burning hydrogen too, since it uses separate chambers for intake and combustion, which would automatically negate any of the backfiring issues that piston engines have when they use hydrogen. Plus, the RX-8 Hydrogen RE uses engine parts and production facilities that already exist in Mazda’s inventory, so this duel fuel engine can be built with a high degree of reliability at a relatively low cost. Looks like everything is falling into place for Mr. T Boone Pickens.
Sales are expected to start in 2012.