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For over a century, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has hosted more race cars than one can count thanks to the annual Indy 500. But this weekend, when it hosts the Grand-Am Brickyard Grand Prix, the track will emit the sound of a rotary engine for its very first time.
Yet against the odds, the Japanese automaker seems to have found a formula to keep the smooth-spinning screamer alive in its lineup.
Mitsuo Hitomi, general manager of powertrain development at Mazda recently said that the company plans to complete development of such an engine that will also meet future fuel-economy and emissions standards.
“We think we’ve found a way to improve the rotary’s fuel economy to be truly equal to that of conventional piston engines and, if so, we believe we can reintroduce the rotary to the market,” Hitomi recently told Ward’s Auto.
Much of the new technological breakthrough came in changing the shape of the troichoid housing so that the seals remained flush to the housing. Better sealing means better fuel economy and overall performance. Since the early days of rotary engines, its seals and its “sealability” have always been an issue, dating back to the mid-1960s. “Even with our current 1.3L Renesis rotary, gaps can develop between the apex seal and troichoid housing in light-load operation when imbalances in centrifugal force and gas pressure occur,” Himoti said.
The next engineering enhancement for the new rotary engine will be a focus on ignition. Unfortunately the engineer couldn’t explain on how the Japanese automaker plans on addressing that problem.
Regardless of the improvements made in the next-generation rotary engine, we expect to see it being used for extended-range electric vehicles and Mazda’s Skyactiv technology to be incorporated.
[Source: Wards Auto]