Mazda will soon stop producing the RX-8, its only rotary-engined model; however, the carmaker hasn’t stopped developing the Wankel engine, which has been in production since 1964 when it was featured in the Cosmo R100 coupe.
According to a source, there are currently fewer than a hundred engineers that are working on this engine. But things are definitely getting interesting with a recently developed laser ignition system. With laser ignition, spark plugs wouldn’t be needed anymore.
As a result, fuel efficiency is improved and hydrocarbon emissions are lowered since it’s easier to seal the Wankel's trochoidal combustion chamber. The source said that if the company finds the funds, a new rotary sports car can be developed in the mid-term that has only 130g/km of CO2 emissions compared with the current RX-8’s 299g/km emissions level.
There’s speculation that it could be the next RX-7. One of the factors contributing to its improvement is the use of micro-hybrid technology, lightweight materials, auto stop/start, and others.
Mazda has been talking to Audi about the rotaries but only informally. Audi had recently presented the A1 hatchback-based e-tron concept, which features a 254cc Wankel range-extender positioned under the trunk floor.
What’s ironic about this proposed partnership is that Audi absorbed NSU, which led the way for automotive Wankel engines from the late 1950s until the '70s. It also sold a license to Mazda to develop and produce the engine in 1961.