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Where are Mazda’s Hydrogen Engines?

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mazda hydrogen rx-8

The Mazda Hydrogen RE RX-8

More than 10 years ago, Mazda created a hydrogen rotary engine that emits no CO2. Mazda’s hydrogen engines weren’t built from the ground up; instead, the automaker decided to modify its existing rotary engine and change it to use hydrogen fuel instead of gasoline. It was able to achieve this at a low cost, which made the possibility of future hydrogen-powered Mazda cars more likely, but we have yet to see any.

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Mazda named this engine the RENESIS system. It can run on two fuel sources: gasoline or hydrogen. Like the appeal of an electric hybrid, this gives some peace of mind to car buyers who want green vehicles but are afraid of not being able to find enough hydrogen stations.

The design of the RENESIS solves the possible backfiring problem in hydrogen engine designs. Backfiring occurs when the hydrogen comes into contact with hot engine parts and prematurely combusts when it is not in the combustion chamber. Mazda’s design prevents that by separating the low-temperature intake and high-temperature combustion chamber so the fuel won’t activate until it’s in the right spot.

RENESIS is also smooth enough to switch between hydrogen and gasoline at the simple press of a button, or if one runs out before the other.

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Despite producing an efficient hybrid hydrogen engine at a low production cost, Mazda has yet to introduce this in any of its production cars. However, the RX-8 Hydrogen RE and the Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid have both been leased to governments and companies since before the 2008 financial crisis.

It’s been a decade. The economy has recovered and green vehicles are working to charge into the mainstream market. Why hasn’t Mazda produced more hydrogen hybrid vehicles or been more vocal in the past few years about fuel cells? Back in October, it announced the rotary engine is returning in 2020 as a hybrid electric engine.

Come on, Mazda. Give us an updated hydrogen car and sell it in the normal market. It just makes sense.