Oh, those Europeans. With their miserly diesels, minuscule four-cylinders, and stringent air-quality standards, it would seem they're a couple of decades ahead in critical efficiency/air-quality measures compared to us here in the United States. They get most of the cool, experimental technology before we do--like Mazda's first hydrogen-powered rotary vehicle outside of Japan, the RX-8
Hydrogen RE. We recently reported
on this upcoming project, but at the time didn't think it would be a reality until much later.
RX-8 RE (Rotary Engine) will be introduced to Norway's roadways as a part of the Hydrogen Road of Norway project (HyNor). Mazda's participation will initially include just a single RX-8, which will be driven regularly, as well as displayed at events. Beginning fiscal year '09, Mazda will add approximately 30 more RX-8 REs to the fleet that operate under commercial lease contracts. Mazda opted in to the program in 2007 by signing a "memorandum of understanding" with HyNor.
Of note, rotary engines aren't extremely efficient compared with the reciprocating mass of pistons within cylinders (2008 RX-8 fuel economy ratings: 16/22 mpg), leading us to question the use of this particular engine for a hydrogen initiative. We suppose it's more about zero emissions than it is about fuel frugality.
Ever-tighter emissions standards in Europe (which have their automakers grumbling, just like they do here, even asking for government-backed loans to help them invest in clean technology) make alternative, clean-burning technologies like hydrogen that much more pressing and prevalent.
HyNor's ultimate plan is a roadway stretching 580 kilometers (approximately 360 miles) from Oslo to Stavanger, complete with hydrogen fueling stations along the route. The project's vision is "to revolutionize transportation in Norway by encompassing buses, taxis and private cars, and varying types of transport systems, including urban, inter-city, regional and even long-distance transport."--Colin Mathews