Wild-Ass Rumor Of The Day: Mazda Working On Rotary Engine With Freaking Lasers?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
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Having seen its RX-8 banned from Europe for flunking emissions tests, Mazda may be going to extreme lengths to improve the efficiency of its next-gen rotary engine (codenamed 16x) which has been in development since 2007. Autocar reports

The 16X’s capacity has been raised from 1304cc to 1600cc, and it is also physically smaller and partly built from aluminium. The changes are designed to improve two of the biggest issues with rotary engine performance: fuel economy and torque delivery.

The Mazda source said the new engine “needed a smaller hole on the wall [of the combustion chamber]” as a result of eliminating the space-hungry normal spark plug. He also admitted to Autocar that the use of laser ignition “was absolutely possible”.

Recent advances in Japan have created high-power lasers made from ceramics that measure just 9mm in diameter and 11mm in length, easily small enough to fit into a car engine.

Not only would laser ignition allow the 16x to burn leaner, it would also allow more precise control of ignition points and timing. More importantly, it would cement the Wankel rotary’s status as the least-necessary, most overly-complex and thoroughly awesome engine ever created. And they say emissions standards always make cars less interesting…

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Johnny ro Johnny ro on Jun 27, 2011

    So am i the only one old enough to appreciate the irony in "controlling ignition points and timing" with lasers?

    • M 1 M 1 on Jun 28, 2011

      I did wonder about the "ignition point" comment (I assume it doesn't mean "points" in the spinning-contactor sense that I think you're referring to). I can't imagine they'd actually need to alter anything but timing.

  • Felis Concolor Felis Concolor on Jun 28, 2011

    Does this mean Mazda's rotary engine will see its fuel consumption go from bad to mediocre? The latest jump from execrable to bad was impressive.

  • Austerror Austerror on Oct 11, 2011

    There certainly are a lot of people that like to say bad things about the rotary! I own (and drive) a Eunos Cosmo. It is currently not my daily driver, but I have used it as a daily. My Cosmo has a 20B twin turbo. 0 to 100km/h is around 4.5seconds. Thats 0 to 60mph I think. Fuel economy on the freeway is just a little more than 10L per 100km. Around town, depending on how I'm driving the economy can be up to 2x as bad. It is indeed not the most fuel efficient car on the market. But it is far from the worst. For those of you that don't know, the 20B is the 3 rotor engine, its a 13B with an extra rotor. It does not need any oil top ups between oil changes (every 5000km). In fact I have never observed the oil going down at all. I've owned my Cosmo for about 5 years now and I won't be selling it. The WORST thing about the car is the warm up cycle. A correct warm up and cool down cycle is a must for the 20B. So its not the car you can drive if you are in a hurry. Its forte is long haul freeway drives. For example from Sydney to Melbourne. Also, the Cosmo is SMOOTH. The power delivery never gets boring! I've been in a bunch of cars and none of them compare to the Cosmo. I have not been in a new BMW M5, I'm sure that would be smoother. But my Cosmo was made in 1995. I am a Mazda fan and have driven Mazdas for a long time. My current daily is a Lexus IS200. It was the right price and condition :) The IS200 IS a very nice car and to prove I'm not some crazy mazda nut, I would buy Lexus again, they make nice cars. As for the rotary. Yes they do need to be cared for, but if you look after them right, they will look after you. The 16X is going to be EPIC. PS If you have not been in a fast rotary powered car, find someone to take you for a spin. Its an experience that will make you grin! Same goes for a fast piston powered car. They are fun too, but different.

  • Acmech Acmech on Dec 25, 2013

    This article was posted over 2 years ago (6-27-11),and while interesting- I'm not thrilled at the very opinionated & FICTITIOUS comment of "cementing the Wankels current status (review text)..." by its' author... Sure Mazda has spent a great deal of money developing this powerplant design, and so have many Wankel enthusiasts... This is what it takes to develop things that work well & endure stressful conditions... As far as not setting records with this design, has anyone who is reading these responses even looked into the history of what vehicles using this engine design have done? Look at who won the 1991 24-hours of LeMans... It was a MAZDA 787B powered by a Wankel... This is the ultimate test of performance & endurance of Man & machine.... How about the stunning performance of the drag cars and wheel-driven WLSR racecars? Don't forget about the very satisfied owners of numerous Wankel powered sport aircraft... The Truth About Cars is that SIMPLICITY will often be the result of reliability and performance.... This simplicity often takes ENORMOUS amounts of money, research & development to master the art of function... After the devastating results of the Tsunami that Japan has endured since this article was posted, many expensive research/development programs had to be put on hold to aid the recovery of this country... I'm inclined to think the Wankel will re-surface as soon as the funding for R&D can be made available... BTW, the Wankel engine is by far the simpler design and has much LESS vulnerability to mechanical malfunction than many of the current RIDICULOUSLY over-complicated contraptions that roll out of the doors of many vehicle manufacturing plants... This is something that consumers should be looking forward to...