Mazda develops hydrogen-powered rotary engineAugust 17, 2021
It is possible that after the company will release the long-awaited successor to the Mazda RX-8.
Mazda’s promise to release more electric vehicles does not mean the end of its famous rotary engine. The company is reportedly developing a hydrogen-powered rotary engine that could be used as a successor to the RX-8. According to Japanese magazine Best Car, without citing sources, Mazda has never completely stopped developing rotary engines. The company scaled back the program significantly after production of the RX-8 ended in 2012, but in the following years there were reports and even patents for rotary technology. According to the same report, the development team’s focus has now shifted to a hydrogen-powered rotary engine.
Details such as power, torque and number of rotors have not yet been published, probably because the engine is still in its early stages of development, but this solution offers several technical advantages. One of the weak points of hydrogen is that it tends to ignite at hot spots inside cylinders. However, a rotary engine does not have heat spots because it uses rotors rather than pistons, so it is well suited for burning hydrogen.
Hydrogen combustion is rare. Most car manufacturers who use this technology use fuel to generate electricity, which then drives one or more electric motors. However, this is not unprecedented. Mazda tested and even rented experimental RX-8s, which could run on both gasoline and hydrogen, in the 2000s, even though the system took up the entire trunk and weighed almost 91 kg. The engine was even used in some Mazda5 test minivans. More recently, Toyota (which is working with Mazda on several projects) built a Corolla racing car powered by a turbocharged three-cylinder engine that runs on hydrogen.
There is no information yet on what will happen with the new rotor. One possibility is the RX-Vision concept coupe, which appeared in trademark filings in August 2021. It could appear as a hybrid with a pair of electric motors on wheels. If it looks like the 2015 concept, fans will no doubt welcome it as the successor to the RX-8.
“If we decide to do this, the prototype will be ready within three years. Most likely, the system will combine electric turbocharging, ”an anonymous Mazda spokesman told reporters.
Prototyping is relatively easy, but making a sound business case is much more difficult. Ultimately, whether a project gets the green light for production depends on how much the development costs and whether enough people buy the car. Mazda hasn’t commented on the report and its future plans for the rotary engine are vague at best.
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