YOKOHAMA, Japan -- Within two years, Mazda Motor Corp. will lease an RX-8 that can run on either hydrogen or gasoline.
The first few leases of the rotary-engine sports car will be to government and corporate fleets to gather operating data on the experimental cars. That also has been the case for the leases of the handful of fuel cell cars on the road.
Mazda will build a hydrogen filling station at its Hiroshima headquarters in February for testing.
Mazda will lease all of the cars in Japan.
Ford Motor Co. owns 33.4 percent of Mazda.
Mazda sees the dual-fuel rotary engine as particularly well suited to a time in the future when the world will shift from gasoline to hydrogen as a fuel.
"We think the two can live together on the market," says Akihiro Kashiwagi, the program's project manager.
The dual-fuel rotary engine, he says, would ease a driver's concerns about finding a hydrogen filling station while the infrastructure for hydrogen is being put in place.
Mazda unveiled its ninth and latest hydrogen-powered vehicle at last year's Tokyo Motor Show, which was for passenger cars and motorcycles. The first hydrogen-powered vehicle debuted in 1991.
Mazda will show a tweaked version of that ninth vehicle, the dual-fuel RX-8, at the Tokyo Motor Show in November, which is for commercial and barrier-free vehicles. Mazda gave technical details at a press briefing at its Yokohama design studio.
The car has two fuel tanks, plus hydrogen leak sensors in the cabin, engine compartment and just outside the pressurized hydrogen tank.
A driver chooses which fuel to burn before starting the car. The RX-8 can drive 43.5 miles on its 19.2-gallon tank of hydrogen. The hydrogen tank fills the trunk.
The 15.9-gallon tank of gasoline is the same size and in the same place, under the rear seat, as on the current production model.
The hydrogen RX-8 can be built on the same assembly line as the gasoline version, unlike a fuel cell car.
Both fuel cells and hydrogen engines eliminate all carbon dioxide emissions. Fuel cells also eliminate emissions of oxides of nitrogen, or NOx. Mazda says that rotary hydrogen engines cut NOx to "almost zero."
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