Mazda's RX-8 Hydrogen RE hits the snow and ice for the first time

Click on the photo for a high-res gallery of the RX-8 in cold weather testing

Most of the Japanese car-makers do much of their cold weather testing at facilities on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, including Mazda. Mazda has been working on developing their Wankel rotary engines to run on hydrogen gas for over decade, but apparently this week is the first time that they have tested the hydrogen powered RX-8 coupe in the cold. In conjunction with the Environment and Transport Symposium on Hydrogen Energy in Muroran city on Hokkaido, the RX-8 Hydrogen RE is doing some running on snow and ice and conference participants are getting an opportunity to drive it. The intent is demonstrate the practicality of using a hydrogen ICE, particularly a rotary, in winter weather conditions, which has until recently been a problem for fuel cell vehicles. The Mazda press release is after the jump.

[Source: Mazda]
Mazda's RX-8 Hydrogen RE undergoes its first cold weather tests -

HIROSHIMA, Japan-Mazda Motor Corporation is joining forces with the Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau (HRDB) to test the cold weather performance of its hydrogen cars. In response to a request from the HRDB, a Mazda RX-8 Hydrogen RE is being used for the tests, which are scheduled to run from February 19 to 23, 2007. This cold weather testing coincides with the Environment and Transport Symposium on Hydrogen Energy that is being held in Muroran city, Hokkaido Prefecture, on February 21. Participants in the symposium will have a chance to ride in the RX-8 Hydrogen RE and attend a briefing session. The HRDB is a division of Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MLIT).

For the tests involving the hydrogen rotary-engine vehicle provided by Mazda, only the tires have been changed to suit the cold weather. The vehicle is otherwise identical to the model currently available for commercial lease.

Akihiro Kashiwagi, Mazda's program manager in charge of hydrogen rotary engine development, said, "It's a real privilege for Mazda to contribute to these activities in Hokkaido, which are part of the drive to build a hydrogen-based, eco-friendly society. We plan to demonstrate that vehicles powered by Mazda's unique hydrogen rotary engine are very practical even in cold regions. Since hydrogen cars with rotary engines are relatively cheap to produce and can also run on ordinary gasoline, we believe they will have an important role to play as we move closer to a hydrogen energy society. Mazda intends to continue doing its part toward achieving a more environmentally-friendly hydrogen energy society in the future."

Hydrogen fuel produces no carbon dioxide, one of the primary causes of global warming. The HRDB is conducting feasibility studies into the uses of hydrogen in snowy climates. These include plans to conduct various cold weather tests in and around Muroran city and neighboring Noboribetsu city. Both cities are in Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan's northernmost island. This region produces abundant volumes of byproduct hydrogen and is therefore one of the most feasible locations in Hokkaido for a hydrogen fuel network. These and other initiatives in the Muroran area are aimed at establishing a hydrogen energy-based, environmentally-friendly society. Through these initiatives, the city is becoming a model for a future society that uses new energy sources, and it is spreading its message around the world.

The Environment and Transport Symposium on Hydrogen Energy, taking place on February 21, 2007, is organized by the HRBD and the "Town Level Research Committee to Utilize Hydrogen in the Muroran Area." The symposium participants comprise local representatives of industry, academia and government who are meeting to discuss the possible uses of hydrogen in transportation.

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