Rate It: The Mazda RX-8 That Could Run on Gasoline or Hydrogen

By Colin Wood
Nov 12, 2020 | Mazda, rx-8, Rate It, Hydrogen

As promising as hydrogen-powered cars sounded, committing to that as being a car’s only source of fuel would be a significant undertaking—especially with a limited infrastructure in place to provide that fuel. However, Mazda took that into consideration when it worked on developing a hydrogen powerplant in the early 2000s.

Enter the Mazda RX-8 Hydrogen RE. Fully capable of running on hydrogen alone in its unique rotary engine, the RX-8 could also be run on gasoline at the flip of a switch, making it one of the very first vehicles of its kind.

In hydrogen mode, the RX-8 had a range of approximately 60 miles and was good for around 107 horsepower and 103 lb.-ft. of torque. In gasoline mode, the RX-8 behaved similarly to a non-dual-fuel RX-8, rated for 206 horsepower and 164 lb.-ft. of torque.

In order to accommodate two separate fuel tanks while still being able to fit four passengers, however, Mazda had to place the tank used to store the hydrogen in the space normally occupied by the trunk.

Despite that, the Hydrogen RE was more than just a concept car, as it was later made available for lease to customers in Japan, making it the world’s first street-legal, dual-fuel hydrogen rotary car.

Did the Mazda RX-8 Hydrogen RE show the world the potential of hydrogen as an alternative (potentially cleaner) fuel, or are there better alternatives out there like electricity or biofuels?

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1988RedT2 MegaDork
11/12/20 1:45 p.m.

Pretty much sums up why I'm such a Mazda fanboy, and I know perfectly well that I'll never own a Miata:  Innovation.  Well, that and the fact that every Mazda I've ever owned has been fun to drive.

twowheeled New Reader
11/18/20 2:50 p.m.

How did they solve the problem of hydrogen fuel cells leaking?

fidelity101 (Forum Supporter)
fidelity101 (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
11/18/20 5:31 p.m.

there is something with the rotary engine that makes it superior than piston engines for this type of fuel. I'd have to dig up the details but it plays to the rotaries inefficients which makes it ideal for hydrogen combustion apparently. 

svxsti Reader
11/18/20 8:18 p.m.

I would never buy anything Mazda. I love the Rotary engine and the last RX7 but Japan never gives Americans their best. For example the NC11 Miata was designed for the RX8 drivetrain but never went in, too good for us. Not to mention the last RX7 was timeless and no other car could pull over 1g on 225 street tires. The potential that platform had was better than anything I have ever seen. So the RX8 was a joke in every way, even if the Renesis had made it into a Miata, the RX7 platform still would have been a better choice for the Miata. For the few who have an RX7 with a 20B engine and a GT3 set up, they know the perfection that Mazda would never produce for Americans. Same goes for the 1st NSX and all the Zs. 

j_tso Reader
11/18/20 8:27 p.m.

In reply to fidelity101 (Forum Supporter) :

I think Mazda's marketing at the time said it was due to the combustion in a rotary taking place away from the intake allowed the hydrogen not to pre-detonate or something like that.

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