Cooking with gas
Mazda is ready to put a hydrogen hybrid into volume production, writes PAUL GOVER
THE car GM believes will rewrite the rules for hybrids has been overtaken before it even hits the road. Mazda has a hi-tech hybrid which it believes can trump the coming GM Volt. It will put it into volume production, though only on a lease deal for drivers, next year.
The Mazda5 hybrid uses a hydrogenfuelled rotary engine to charge an on-board battery pack, which then makes it a fully electric drive in the same style as the Volt.
The new people-mover is the start of a big hydrogen push by Mazda. Company chairman Hisakazu Imaki believes it is the fuel of the future.
‘‘Travelling around the world I know there are many people who believe we will evolve into a hydrogen-based industry,’’ Imaki said in Sydney last week.
‘‘Norway is already working on this sort of project. We will be supplying a hydrogenpowered Mazda RX-8,’’ he says.
Imaki says the Mazda5 project is much more adventurous than just converting an existing engine that runs on unleaded petrol, and he is keen to see how it works.
‘‘By the end of this fiscal year we intend to start sales on a lease basis,’’ he says.
Mazda plans to cut fuel use by 30 per cent across its range by 2015.
‘‘We are also working to reduce the energy used in our factories. I can proudly say I think our plants are among those that use the least amount of C02 in the world.’’
He says Mazda is pushing hard to meet emission and economy targets, but is not locked into a single solution.
‘‘We are working on multiple solutions, including hybrids, to the challenges we face,’’ he says.
‘‘But in your country the use of hydrogen is not too highly evaluated.’’
Imaki says Mazda will present a new technology at the Paris Motor Show in October as it pushes for better efficiency in a range of vehicles.
‘‘It will be something in the powertrain area. But that is going to be just a first step,’’ he says.
‘‘It’s something I’m sure will get a strong reaction.
‘‘For competitive reasons, I can’t disclose the technical solution involved in achieving it. ‘‘Though it is just the first step, at the Paris show we will be coming out with that first step,’’ Imaki says.
Looking further into the future, he says there is strong potential for plug-in electric vehicles.
‘‘One thing that can be said is a plug-in type of vehicle is very persuasive and understandable, even to a housewife. And when I say housewife, I have my own wife in mind.’’
Mazda has embraced hydrogen power with its Mazda5 (left) and the Mazda RX-8.