Mazda have long been exponents of the Wankel rotary engine. Its ability to produce large amounts of power from a small, lightweight and high revving unit has always promised much but there have always been downsides. So far Mazda have had difficulty getting good fuel economy even from the relatively small capacity engines and with today’s high fuel costs this is limiting the use of such a powerplant.
Mazda are however optimistic and certainly far from giving up on the innovation. The RX-8 Coupe may end its production in 2012 but Mazda president and CEO, Takashi Yamanouchi, claims the company will continue research on the rotary engine.
He went on to say that the engine was an icon of the Mazda brand and that this kind of performance engine will continue to be used in future RX-8 and potentially the MX-5 roadster. At this point he could not say if the models would be separate or merged into one. He did confirm that there was a definite need for major improvements in both efficiency and torque.
One option may be a hydrogen powered rotary engine to produce electric power and prototypes are apparently already being tested.