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Published on June 15th, 2011 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez


Rotary Power To See A Revival

Mazda have announced that they will soon stop producing the RX-8 sports car which also happens to be its only rotary-engined product. This however does not mean that Mazda has given up development on the Wankel (rotary) engine, which has been in production since 1964 when it was featured in the Cosmo R100 coupe. There are currently fewer than a hundred engineers working on this engine in Mazda. But things are definitely getting interesting with a recently developed laser ignition system. With laser ignition, spark plugs wouldn’t be needed anymore. As a result, fuel efficiency will be improved and hydrocarbon emissions will be lowered since it’s easier to seal the Wankel’s trochoidal combustion chamber. Mazda will have a new rotary sports car once their accountants give them the go ahead. A possible 130g/km of CO2 emissions compared with the current RX-8’s 299g/km emissions level will be needed to make this project feasible. There is speculation that it could be the next RX-7 which is long overdue. One of the factors contributing to its improvement will be the use of micro-hybrid technology, lightweight materials and an auto stop/start system.

Best news still, Mazda has been talking informally to Audi about the next generation rotary engine. Audi had recently presented the A1 hatchback-based e-tron concept, which features a 254cc Wankel range-extender positioned under the trunk floor. What’s ironic about this proposed partnership is that Audi absorbed NSU, which led the way for automotive Wankel engines from the late 1950s until the ’70s. It also sold a license to Mazda to develop and produce the engine in 1961 and now they have taken a return to this innovative engine technology. Combining Audi’s and Mazda’s motorsports experience should produce an engine that could see more power with reduced fuel consumption.

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