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Mazda unveils rotary hybrid

2007-10-04 08:13

Mazda unveiled a new kind of hybrid vehicle on Tuesday that runs on hydrogen fuel powering an electric motor. The Japanese automaker said it will be available for leasing in Japan next year.

The Mazda Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid (based around a Mazda5 platform), shown to reporters ahead of its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show later this month, operates on a rotary engine, which has a reputation for being quiet because it doesn't have pistons like standard engines.

The vehicle is powered by energy produced when hydrogen combines with oxygen in the air to emit only clean water. A conventional rotary engine runs on gasoline, but the one in the new hybrid runs on hydrogen stored in a tank, although it can switch to gas when hydrogen runs out.

Like other global automakers, Mazda, an affiliate of Ford Motor Co., has been working on hydrogen vehicles. Having a history of producing iconic rotary powered internal combustion cars, it is hardly surprising to see Mazda apply it's rotary expertise to the an alternative fuel source

Mazda officials said the latest hydrogen hybrid is an improvement over its previous hydrogen vehicle, leased since 2006, extending its run on a full tank of hydrogen from 100 kilometers (62 miles) to 200 kilometers (124 miles).

The new car also has a lithium-ion battery that drives the motor and recharges itself using energy from braking, further conserving on electricity. Mazda refused to say what supplier was providing the battery.

The leasing fee will be similar to the predecessor at about 400,000 yen (US$3,500; 2,500) a month, according to Mazda, and so it's aimed at government and ecological organizations.

Mazda has been marking growing sales at a time when some automakers, including Ford Motor Co., has been struggling to make a turnaround amid faltering sales and cost cutting.

Mazda's global sales for the current fiscal year is expected to be up 4 percent to a record high 1.35 million vehicles, surpassing the company's previous record set in 1990, as it boosts vehicle sales in North America and Europe, offsetting flat sales in Japan.

AP

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