Mazda Bets on Hydrogen Wankel

Glenn Swanson
by Glenn Swanson
mazda bets on hydrogen wankel

Reuters reports that Mazda is betting on the so-called hydrogen economy: "We have to prepare for sustainable zoom-zoom." After issuing the PC catch phrase of the day, Mazda's head of R&D Quality and Powertrain Development admitted there are "technical challenges." But Nobuhiro Hayama is stoked; he figures rotary engines (remember them?) can run on hydrogen. In fact, Hayama says no changes are required in either manufacturing techniques or materials. You want dual fuel? A dual tank hydrogen rotary engine could use both hydrogen AND gasoline. Meanwhile, says the catalyst used in hydrogen fuel cells could be an issue. The news service quotes Derek Engelbrecht, an executive at Impala Platinum Holdings, who reckons "global platinum supplies will probably fall short of demand by 205k ounces this year." Those planning to pay for Mazda's hydrogen Wankel needn't worry: Amex' platinum card members won't be affected.

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  • SunnyvaleCA SunnyvaleCA on Oct 23, 2007

    Most gasoline car engines, with enough tweaking, can be made to run on hydrogen fuel. Vaporized gasoline isn't really all that much different than hydrogen (which, unfortunately for cars, is all too easy to vaporize at atmospheric temperature and pressure). I suppose the Mazda guys are just piping in andy saying that they can get the Wankel to perform the same trick. Now if only Mercedes could bring back the C111 with Wankel. :-)

  • Storminvormin Storminvormin on Oct 24, 2007

    What do fuel cells and catalysts have to do with a hydrogen powered rotary that has its fuel stored in a tank? Are they involved in the production of hydrogen? Am I missing something here?

  • Iamwho2k Iamwho2k on Oct 24, 2007

    I think the Wankel "could" be efficient, but with just one company doing all the research it will be a tough slog.

  • Cranstonpolson Cranstonpolson on Nov 21, 2007

    People The reason that mazda has continued to develop the rotary engine is not due to the fact that it was one of the sole things that restarted hirroshimas eceonomy, it is due to its suspeptability to hydrogen! No valves and a purely gasseous, moving combustion chamber. Smart smart move on behalf of Mazda. They had a visionary within their ranks. Don't see any other purely hydrogen IC engines diract from manufacturers out there do you? Think about it. Also think about the fact that when Froude purchased the rights for the engine from Felix Wankel himself, and started spinning the crank instead of the engines, Wabkel told him "you've tured my race horse into a draft horse".

    • Jwvandegronden Jwvandegronden on Apr 22, 2010

      This is an ancient article, but when looking for info it amazes me how little is known regarding the technology available. And Im no expert either! The wankel engine Mazda is using, was initially designed as a H engine. The german engineer Wankel originally designed it in his conviction that fossil fuels would one day come to an end. Visionary. That combined with the Pebble Bed Reactor gives us completely new set of standards in our energy quest. Would love to see that happen. China and South Africa (Holland a bit as well) are so far as close to making a gen IV plant operational. I read an article about this in WIRED two or three years ago and stil everyone has a meltdown (pun intended) when the energy discussion turns to nuclear. Such a shame.