To further its research into new powertrain technology, Mazda began leasing a series hybrid vehicle with a hydrogen-fueled range extending engine to energy companies and local governments. This type of test leasing helps automakers gain useful data on how cars operate in a controlled setting, and ensures that the vehicles' drivers have hydrogen filling stations available.
Although the powertrain configuration is similar to that of the Chevrolet Volt, a series hybrid using an electric motor to power the wheels and a range-extending engine to generate electricity, Mazda puts its own twist on the system, with a hydrogen-burning rotary engine as a range extender. Mazda previously developed an RX-8 using a rotary engine that burned hydrogen, calling it the RX-8 Hydrogen RE. BMW has also explored burning hydrogen in an internal combustion engine with the.
Mazda's new vehicle is called the Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid, and is built on the five passenger Premacy platform. It has a 110 kilowatt motor to turn the wheels, which gets juice from a lithium ion battery pack. When the battery runs low, the rotary engine kicks in to generate electricity, drawing hydrogen from a 5,000 PSI tank. As configured, the Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid gets a range of 125 miles.
The car includes a dual fuel system, making it possible to use gasoline if no hydrogen is available.