Mazda Looking to Rejigger the Rotary Engine


Mazda stopped manufacturing its rotary engines in 2012. However, a new patent filing suggests the Japanese car maker may reintroduce this motor. Read on to understand what could be behind the move and why you should care about it.

Mazda’s Plans to Improve the Rotary Engine

Image via Flickr by insider_monkey

Image via Flickr by insider_monkey

Cars with rotary engines tended to have poor fuel economy and generate high carbon emissions compared to piston engines because they usually burn more oil. These downsides were two of the key reasons Mazda abandoned its rotary engines in 2012. It will no doubt aim to address these negatives with a new generation of rotaries.

Rotary engines also tend to produce less torque than piston engines. In a marketplace that demands vehicles have torque, this is also a limitation testers at Mazda will need to overcome.

Mazda says it won’t bring the rotary engine back unless its performance is at least comparable to conventional motors. However, if you believe Kiyoshi Fujiwara, Mazda’s chief of research and development, the car maker has already achieved that goal. While Mazda hasn’t announced details about how it’s done that, the patent filing offers some explanation.

Why the Rotary Engine Matters

While the rotary engines of the past have been let down by poor fuel economy, low torque, and high carbon emissions, they still have a few advantages on their side. These engines have a compact design, smooth operation, and high revving capabilities on their side.

What the Patent Filing Tells Us

According to the patent filing, Mazda has maintained the rotary engine’s compact design but refined the design to overcome its traditional failings. It’s inverted the engine, moving the intake to the bottom and putting the exhaust at the top. This has lengthened the intake passage, creating a “dynamic forced induction effect,” according to the patent. Mazda has also decreased the length of the exhaust passage to reduce backpressure. This gives Mazda the space it needs to mount a turbocharger above the engine. This makes sure Mazda can efficiently mount its new rotary motor even in a small engine room.

Mazda’s last rotary engine featured spark plugs running parallel to the engine’s combustion chamber, but the new drawings show angled twin plugs. While the reason behind the new configuration is unclear, Fox News suggests it could provide greater control of the combustion process, something Fujiwara suggests is critical for reducing fuel economy.

What Rotary Engines Could Mean for Mazda’s Future

If Mazda new rotary engines can capitalize on their traditional strengths and eliminate the negatives we typically associate with the motors, it could help the Japanese car manufacturer set itself apart from others in the marketplace. The inverted design would allow Mazda to mount its engine lower, which would in turn lower its cars’ center of gravity and make them more sure-footed on the road. Rotary engines are also known for having high redlines, so reintroducing them into its vehicles could even help Mazda become a racing powerhouse.

Only time will tell whether Mazda will release more cars featuring rotary engines. But with the 50th anniversary of Mazda’s first rotary-powered car looming in 2017, the answers could come sooner rather than later.

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