Driven: Mazda Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid Page 2

September 18, 2009’s editors love the way the Mazda5 handles compared to most other minivans and small crossover vehicles (and even some wagons), and surprisingly responsive handling is a trait that carries through to the H2 RE. At about 3,870 pounds, the curb weight is only about 400 pounds heavier than a U.S. spec 2010 Mazda5. The result is a vehicle that rides and steers much like the standard version, without the heft and hard ride of some EVs and fuel-cell conversions. No, we didn’t really push it, but on the curves this hydrogen minivan felt downright nimble.

Fortunately, right before driving the Hydrogen RE, we were quite close to empty, so we went over to the Air Products portable refueling station Mazda had brought out for the event and watched the whole fueling process; the process can take up to 15 minutes, yet our nearly empty high-pressure tank, at 35 MPa, refilled in less than five minutes.

Driving range is about 200 kilometers (more than 120 miles) according to Mazda. And that’s before considering the 250-mile driving range from the separate gasoline tank.

According to Mazda research and development chief Seita Kanai, the company has a total of eight Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrids in its own fleet in Japan. Under a very limited lease deal, deliveries are rolling out very slowly. Earlier this week, Mazda announced the delivery of two Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrids to government fleets in Hiroshima, Japan; these are in addition to the first lease delivery of the model to a Japanese corporation in May.

The slow rollout isn’t surprising considering the tremendous cost of these vehicles. Kanai estimated that the actual cost of these vehicles as they are is in the range of a few hundred thousand dollars, versus ten times that for an actual fuel-cell vehicle.

There’s no question that a hydrogen economy and viable hydrogen vehicles are still many years away. The Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid simply proves that fuel cells might only be part of the picture.

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