Mazda Confirms Rotary Sports Car Engine In Development

It’s time for another round of Mazda RX-series rumors, folks.

byJames Gilboy| UPDATED Sep 5, 2017 10:49 AM
Mazda Confirms Rotary Sports Car Engine In Development

On Monday, at the Mazda Tech Forum in Frankfurt, Germany. Wheels reports that a Mazda executive confirmed to the press that Mazda is continuing to develop the Wankel rotary engine concept, dead since the 2012 discontinuation of their RX-8 sports car. “We’re still continuing development of the next generation rotary engine,” stated Mitsuo Hitomi of Mazda. "We cannot improve the rotary engine to the current conventional engine emissions," continued Hitomi, "we are investigating various kinds of emission systems to ensure ideal conditions." Hidetoshi Kudo, a Mazda R&D executive, confirmed that laser and plasma ignition systems have been considered for use in their next rotary engine, both to improve power and reduce emissions, but cost is an issue with these high-tech systems.

Back in March, we discussed some of Mazda's other recent technological advances surrounding the Wankel design. Mazda's Skyactiv-X HCCI engine, now seeing road use in a test mule, may allow Mazda the slack they need to meet CAFE standards for their fleet, even with a rotary-powered car amongst its offerings. A variable exhaust port has been developed, improving torque at low RPM, a major weakness of the Wankel engine. Alongside this change, a stop-start system has been devised, to prevent engine flooding, and decrease the engine's fuel and oil consumption as well as emissions.

More recently, we learned in August that Mazda was developing a complex new twincharging system, involving both an electric supercharger and twin turbochargers. The supercharger would have no parasitic draw, being powered by regenerative braking, but would retain the same instant boost, until the turbochargers take effect and give the less-sustainable supercharger a rest. The patent applications themselves do not reference rotary engines in any way, but forced induction and rotary engines complement each other like chocolate and peanut butter, due to the Wankel's low compression ratio, increasing the already strong power density of the rotary design. It's a no-brainer to consider the next Mazda rotary engine as a potential application for this novel twincharging system.

With Mazda's 2020 centenary approaching, and their fiftieth anniversary of rotary heritage this year, there's no better time for Mazda to give their signature engine a grand reentry to the automotive world. Mazda itself has been awfully commemorative of their RX-series sports cars this year, and with rumors of an RX-9 announcement at this year's Tokyo Motor Show, it may yet be building up to something. 2017 announcement, 2020 release? We'll see in October, when the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show kicks off.