For decades the abbreviation “RE” in Mazda parlance stood for “Rotary Engine.” However, if the Mazda patents for a new rotary that appeared last week have anything to say about it, “RE” might take on a whole new meaning.
Two new patents filed by Mazda Motor Corporation showed up on the US Patent and Trademark Office website last week, according to Autoblog. One shows a rotary engine being used as a “Range Extender” in a hybrid system. In this setup, an electric motor powers the front wheels, while a rear-mounted, single-rotor engine powers a generator that charges a lithium-ion battery pack. The setup is similar to a rotary- and battery-powered Mazda Demio concept shown in 2015.
The other patent adds fuel-saving technologies to the rotary, like an automatic start-stop function popular on many petrol engines today. With the rotary design, though, there are some additional challenges. The rotor has to be clocked to a certain orientation, so that exhaust gases don’t escape through the intake, and n additional sparkplug is added to burn excess vapors.
Though it’s not strictly a performance engine, the patents are encouraging. For one, the setup balances out some of the rotary engine’s drawbacks. Electric motors have instantaneous torque, and a hybrid system promises improved fuel economy. This could go a long way to making a future rotary more acceptable to both customers and regulatory agencies. Perhaps more importantly, though, is that the patents prove that Mazda engineers are still working on the rotary, no matter form it takes.
Images courtesy of Mazda.