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Return of the RX? Mazda Set to Show New Sports Car Concept in Tokyo

Could it also mark the return of the Wankel rotary?

by on Sep.30, 2015

Does this Tokyo sports car concept signal the return of the Mazda RX - and the rotary engine?

Is Mazda finally ready to relaunch its RX sports car? It’s certainly starting to look like the answer is “yes.”

With barely a month to go before the biennial Tokyo Motor Show opens, the Japanese maker is offering a few hints of what it will have on display. And among the 14 models that will be on the stand, we can expect a sports car concept that, says Mazda, “maintains a sense of lineage and authenticity.”

Pushing the Limits!

Of course, if Mazda is truly set to reach back in its historical back of tricks, that raises another critical question: will the new sports car pack an updated version of Mazda’s signature rotary under the hood? Company officials have offered broad hints that they’re working on a Wankel engine that can meet modern fuel economy and emissions requirements.


Mazda Reportedly Readying Rotary Revival

But Wankel engine would have a very different use going forward.

by on Oct.14, 2014

Mazda's last rotary-powered car, the RX-8.

A rotary redux?

After years of hints, promises and denials, Mazda finally appears to be moving towards the re-launch of its once-familiar rotary engine, with a concept model said to be in the works for 2017, and a production model to follow three years later.

But the revived rotary may serve a very different purpose going forward, showing up as part of a plug-in hybrid that would take advantage of the compact engine’s advantages while offsetting its traditional design limitations.

Your Global Auto News Source!

Several senior executives have discussed the company’s options with in recent years, including several directly involved in the program. They have made it clear that Mazda would like to offer a so-called Wankel engine in its portfolio. The unusual powertrain was a signature of the brand when it first burst onto the American scene in the late 1960s and early ‘70s.


End of an Era: Mazda Building Last Rotary Engine

Gone (for now)...but not forgotten.

by on Jun.28, 2012

Mazda briefly stretched out the rotary engine's final run with production of the special-edition RX-8 Spirit.

It has been a mainstay of the brand’s powertrain line-up for more than four decades but in the coming days Mazda will produce the last of its one-popular rotary engines as it halts production of the RX-8 sports car.

The rotary, also known as a Wankel, for its inventor, helped make the Hiroshima-based automaker – but also nearly destroyed it, as well, when a series of major design flaws were discovered leading to endemic early engine failures. But while improvements in the design allowed Mazda to maintain the rotary for quite some time the engine just couldn’t keep up with today’s fast-rising fuel economy standards.

Your Trusted Source!

“Production of the RX-8 will end, but the rotary engine will live on as an important part of Mazda’s spirit,” said Mazda President Takashi Yamanouchi, in a prepared statement.

The rotary engine was developed by German engineer Felix Wankel just after World War II, but it took until the 1960s before automakers began taking a serious look at the technology.


Mazda Delays Death of RX-8 While Working up New Rotary Plans

Japanese maker’s Wankel plans still uncertain.

by on Apr.30, 2012

Mazda stretches the final run of the RX-8 out to June.

With apologies to Mark Twain, reports of the death of the rotary engine are premature, though not greatly exaggerated. Mazda has decided to give its Wankel-powered RX-8 a temporary reprieve, adding an extra 1,000 units to its final run. But what happens beyond that is anything but certain.

While the Japanese maker has been hinting that a more advanced version of the ultra-compact powertrain is under development – this time borrowing some features from Mazda’s promising SkyActiv technology – it is anything but certain if or when a rotary will return to production.

Your Auto News Heavyweight!

As the Mazda RX-8 wraps up its ninth and final year of production, Mazda has decided to add another 1,000 units to the run to meet unexpected demand. The last cars will be part of the Japanese maker’s limited-edition Spirit R model, a heavily loaded model featuring such niceties as Recaro sport bucket seats, oversized red brakes and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.


Mazda Promises the Return of the Rotary

Maker sends tweet to Japanese fans.

by on Oct.11, 2011

When the Mazda RX-8 ceases production the rotary engine goes away, as well.

The rotary engine is in for a revival, or so it might seem based on a tweet posted – in Japanese by the PR folks at Mazda headquarters in Hiroshima.

It suggests a “new model with next-generation rotary engine” is in the works, confirming a report by several months ago.

At the time, the senior executive on the maker’s new SkyActiv program, Kiyoshi Fujiwara, told TDB he was continuing to work on the Wankel engine almost as a skunk works project, even though it did not have the official corporate green light.  (For the full story, Click Here.)

Inside News!

Now, it appears, the next-gen rotary program is on the official program, though the Mazda posting did not provide any details, according to our friends at

The rotary engine has been a favorite for many tech aficionados since the 1960s, when it made its first appearance in Europe in an NSU and, shortly afterwards a Mazda.  In fact, it appeared that the Wankel would become an automotive mainstay, with manufacturers as diverse as General Motors and AMC planning to put it into production.


Mazda Looking to Bring Back Rotary Engine

Despite mileage challenges, rotary could reappear by 2017.

by on Aug.04, 2011

The rotary engine made the Mazda RX-7 a force to be reckoned with.

With the upcoming demise of the RX-8 sports car, a piece of Mazda’s history will vanish.  But a senior company engineer tells that the Japanese maker aims to bring back the rotary engine – in all-new form – shortly after mid-decade.

Formally known as the Wankel, the unusual powertrain helped put Mazda on the map when it first entered the American market four decades ago.  At the time, a large number of manufacturers were studying rotary engine applications.  But early problems with reliability and an ongoing issue with fuel economy led most makers to abandon the technology.

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Mazda, however, has maintained the rotary in its line-up because its small size and high performance fit the brand’s “zoom-zoom” image, said Kiyoshi Fujiwara, the Japanese maker’s global product design chief.


Mazda May Abandon Spark Plugs for Laser Ignition

Updated rotary engine would run leaner, more fuel efficient.

by on Jun.29, 2011

The Mazda Kabura concept makes its debut in Detroit.

The rotary engine is the powertrain of the future – and always will be, declares the engineers who have spent frustrating decades trying to overcome the once-promising Wankel engine’s drawbacks.

Small, light and powerful, the rotary seemed destined for glory, with makers such as General Motors, Mazda and American Motors among the many manufacturers committed to using the engine back in the 1970s.  But then the first Mideast energy crisis struck and all but Mazda were forced to abandon the Wankel due to its relatively poor fuel economy.

The Inside Story!

Over the years, Mazda has scaled back rotary applications but never abandoned the technology – and now, the Japanese maker may have come up with an intriguing solution, using a laser ignition system, instead of conventional spark plugs to boost the Wankel’s fuel efficiency.

The British magazine AutoCar quotes a “senior,” albeit unidentified Mazda engineer involved with the ongoing development of Mazda’s next-generation rotary, known as the 16X Renesis.


Bill Gates Betting $23.5 million on Detroit Start-Up

Microsoft founder one of two key investors in new EcoMotors project.

by on Jul.13, 2010

Microsoft founder Bill Gates is betting $23.5 million on a promising new engine technology, the opoc.

He’s better known as a tech guru – and, since his retirement from Microsoft, as a mega-philanthropist.  But Seattle billionaire Bill Gates is now betting on what some have described as a revolutionary new automotive engine technology.

Gates is one of two new principal investors in EcoMotors, a suburban Detroit start-up that is developing a technology called the opoc motor.  Short for opposed piston-opposed cylinder, its developers claim it can run on either regular unleaded gasoline or diesel and not only boosts fuel economy but also reduces the number of parts needed compared to a conventional gas or diesel powertrain.

The Microsoft founder is putting up $23.5 million in two-year-old EcoMotors.  He is joined as a new investor by Khosla Ventures, a major investment firm from Menlo Park, California.  The Silicon Valley venture capital firm’s founder, Vinod Khosla, was one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems.

The new engine “can be an important step in providing affordable, low-emissions transportation for the developing world,” said Gates, explaining his involvement in the EcoMotors project.  He has steered a significant share of his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation cash to third-world projects, such as the elimination of malaria.  But his personal involvement in the auto industry – beyond Microsoft’s push into auto technology – is new.


EcoMotors’ appeal is twofold.  There’s the new technology, and a set of old names.  The venture is run by one-time General Motors wunderkind Don Runkle, who left the maker to work at its parts spin-off, Delphi Corp., before venturing out on his own.  He serves as CEO, while John Coletti, best known for his work on Ford Motor Co.’s performance vehicles, is president and chief operating officer.  The basic design of the opoc engine, meanwhile, was developed by Peter Hofbauer, former head of powertrain development at Volkswagen AG.  Hofbauer is EcoMotors chairman.


OPOC Could Revolutionize Engine Design

by on Jun.22, 2010

Could the OPOC engine replace conventional internal combustion technology?

There’s so much talk all across the automotive industry about battery electric vehicles, it would seem that the death of the internal combustion engine is imminent.

But even the top proponents of battery power caution that the proven petroleum-powered internal combustion engine, or ICE, will continue to power cars for years to come. So, we might as well work on building a better one.

Long-time Detroit automotive executive Don Runkle presented such a solution at this month’s Green Car Conference. Runkle’s company, EcoMotors International is developing the OPOC – opposed piston opposed cylinder – engine.

Industry Insight!

The engine is a horizontally opposed design with two pistons running in each cylinder. The two-stroke engine has a power burst for every revolution of the crank in each cylinder instead of every other revolution, as is the case with today’s conventional ICE.

Click Here for a video of Inventor Peter Hofbauer explaining how the engine works.

“It’s a better mousetrap,” Runkle said.