Monday, May 25, 2009

Mazda Patents Direct-Injection Rotary Engine, New Motors On The Way?


WHILE OTHER AUTOMAKERS have tried - and ultimately failed - to popularise the rotary engine, Mazda has been the only one to produce a range of workable road vehicles (and the occasional race car) motivated by the unique Wankel powerplant.

But with poor torque production and terrible fuel economy being the main bugbears of the rotary engine, can it survive in an industry that’s being increasingly constrained by emissions laws?

According to US patent application 20090101103, it might. The application, lodged by Mazda earlier this year, details a direct-injected version of the company’s familiar rotary engine - a version that may allow such a motor to remain relevant in a more eco-conscious environment.

Direct injection has been used to great effect in piston engines as an economy-improving and emissions-reducing feature, and it may hold the same benefits for Mazda’s rotary.

mazda_rotary_patent_01The patent likely describes Mazda’s planned 16X rotary engine, which will eventually take over from the 1.3 litre 13B-MSP that powers the current RX-8. The 16X has a longer rotor stroke than the 13B-MSP, as well as 300cc more displacement, but while the 13B uses 80mm thick rotors the patent describes a engine that uses either 76mm or 70mm-wide rotors, suggesting two different engines may be in the pipeline.

As for when we can expect to see a next-gen rotary engine, it’s still too early to tell. Despite its less than ideal reputation as a gas-guzzler, Mazda has stuck by the ol’ spinning triangle and refined it over the past forty years. Given the history it has with the company, we doubt Mazda will be dropping it anytime soon.

If the rotary engine could survive the fuel crisis of the 1970s, we’re willing to bet Mazda will find a way to make it survive anything else. We’ll keep you posted.