Mazda RX-8 Hydrogen RE
Mazda RX-8 Hydrogen RE. Click image to enlarge

Story and photos by Norm Mort

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Photo Gallery: Mazda RX-8 Hydrogen RE

Hiroshima, Japan – With so many other journalists vying for seat time, my test drive of the Mazda RX-8 Hydrogen RE consisted of just two laps around their test track facility near Hiroshima; one lap powered by gas and the other via the hybrid’s hydrogen system.

But it was enough to give me a feeling for the way it performs on both fuels. While the RX-8 Hydrogen RE offers clean performance using hydrogen, it also maintains a driving feel characteristic of a vehicle powered by a conventional gasoline internal combustion engine. The only disappointing aspect was the lack of acceleration and useable torque, a problem that has been addressed with the next generation hydrogen rotary hybrid engine unveiled this week at the Tokyo Motor Show (see following article).

A Mazda engineer accompanied each journalist to ensure we didn’t exceed the mandatory 80 km speed limit. We were also instructed to start our test in hydrogen mode first. There was a slight hesitation noted when switching systems, but apparently this is not the case in the newest generation hydrogen/gas car shown at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Mazda RX-8 Hydrogen RE
Mazda RX-8 Hydrogen RE
Mazda RX-8 Hydrogen RE. Click image to enlarge

On the open highway and at speed with its dual-fuel system, the four-seater RX-8 Hydrogen RE rotary engine can be switched to hydrogen from gasoline fuel at the touch of a button. The button is located at the driver’s knee – at least in this right-hand drive example. A dual centre gauge keeps you informed on what’s going on via warning lights and a gauge. The three-gauge cluster situated in the pod directly in front of the driver consists of a gauge with usual gear selection, oil and warning lights with a tachometer and digital speed in the centre and the unique fuel gauge on the right. Due to its hydrogen/gas dual fuel system there are two separate fuel readings. When in hydrogen mode an H2 indicator light comes on. The same happens when in gas mode. There are two fuel door releases and a rear tank on each side for respective fuels. As well as the two external fuel doors – one on each rear fender, there was the usual identification badges on the flanks and tail.

A cleaner Zoom-Zoom without the loss of the respected RX8 DNA – that’s a good thing for enthusiasts and the environment!

Sidebars:
Mazda5 hydrogen/gas rotary hybrid unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show
Testing Mazda’s new Smart Idle Stop System
Mazda’s new “environmentally friendly” paint shop reduces pollution

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