Mazda Is Developing an Engine to Power Sports Cars of the Future

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Mazda has had a good year, and news that it’s developing a hydrogen-burning Wankel engine has further impressed car enthusiasts.
“But what is a Wankel engine?,” I hear you ask. It’s essentially a more hilarious name for a rotary engine, but offers more torque and weighs less than one relying on pistons.
These attributes make it perfect for cars designed for speed, like the long-retired but never forgotten Mazda RX-8.
Could Mazda’s engineers be looking at hydrogen as a solution for the RX-8’s long-awaited successor? That’s what many people expect, but what does it mean for Mazda’s pledge to offer affordable electric vehicles?
A view outside of Mazda’s headquarters
Mazda is rumored to be working on a successor for the RX-8.

Rumors of Mazda’s plans for a new RX-8

To understand why reports of a new Wankel engine have people excited, you must first understand the history of the famed Mazda RX-8.
During its 10 year run from 2002 to 2012, the RX-8 won hundreds of industry awards, including, on more than one occasion, International Engine of the Year. It was extremely fun to drive both on the track and the road, and had legions of fans.
Unfortunately for them, the RX-8 was discontinued in 2012, largely due to new emissions standards in Europe which the engine couldn’t meet without compromising on performance.
Since then, gearheads have been anxiously awaiting Mazda’s next move, and recent reports out of Japan suggest they won’t have to wait much longer.
Autoblog covers the reports in detail, explaining that while Mazda never fully stopped developing it’s legendary rotary engine, the program was scaled back after the RX-8 was discontinued.
However, with Mazda allegedly working on a rotary engine that doesn’t rely on gas, fans hope they have finally found a solution to the problem. That is a cleaner, greener car, that loses none of the potency that made the RX-8 such a joy to drive.

How will a hydrogen-burning rotary engine work?

Mazda hasn’t released any details about the project, but this hasn’t stopped people from speculating about how the new engines will work.
Hydrogen has several technical advantages over gas. It has a higher octane, allowing the engine to run at higher compression ratios. It is lighter, offering three times as much energy per pound, and when consumed, it only emits water.
Autoblog explains that Mazda has tested experimental hydrogen engines on old RX-8 cars, and Toyota has built a Corolla race car with a three-cylinder hydrogen-burning engine, but neither iteration was a complete success.
One argument against hydrogen is that it can ignite at heat spots within engine cylinders, potentially causing engine fires. Mazda’s latest design overcomes this problem, because there are no heat spots in a Wankel engine.

Is this a reversal of Mazda’s foray into electric cars?

It has only been two months since Mazda announced it was planning on electrifying all of its models over the next 10 years. This doesn’t mean they are phasing out gas engines entirely, but every model will have an electric version available.
Does this hydrogen-burning engine suggest a sudden change of heart? Probably not.
Autoblog suggests an RX-style coupe could be in the works, but as a hybrid, with a pair of in-wheel electric motors connected to a hydrogen rotary engine.
They quote an anonymous Mazda official who says, “If we decide to do it, the prototype will be completed within three years. The most likely system is one that combines an electric turbo.”
RX-8 fans will be hoping the rumors carry some weight, and that Mazda’s hydrogen-burning Wankel engines can power a new generation of sports cars.

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