Mazda has made a name for itself with rotary engines. They’ve taken Felix Wankel, the German engineer's modifications on the engine to new heights, successfully popularizing the demand and appreciation of the engine. The rotary was special because it had very few parts, lacked all the complications that were common for the piston engines and, surprisingly, they didn’t cause the car to vibrate.
Mazda’s rotary engines were popular among high-performance cars, winning several awards and setting records in the track events they participated in. But the Rotary engine wasn’t all flowers and roses.
It’s been known to be a very unreliable and dirty engine, seeing that it emits a lot of carbon into the atmosphere because the fuel in the engine chamber isn’t completely burnt off, which also leads to engine breakdown and failure over-time. The rotary engine seemed to have fallen off the auto-world for many years now but since Mazda has decided to reintroduce this engine, we knew you needed to see these 15 hidden truths behind Mazda’s rotary engine.
15. Birthed by a German Engineer
Far back in 1920, German Engineer Felix Wankel developed a brilliant model for the rotary engine. It's worth noting that the rotary engine had been in existence before Wankel came along, but Wankel ingeniously added the cylindrical gas loading apex pin and reconfigured the vane seals. But we get to use the simplified version of his engine because Wankel's creation was complex and difficult to maintain.
14. It's basically a spinning triangle
If you're still not familiar with the rotary engine, just note that the major difference between it and a conventional piston engine is the simple fact that triangular rotors spin around, coordinating the processes of intake and compression of the fuel as well as the exhaust of said fuel. The rotary engine is lighter because it has fewer parts.
13. Its Mazda’s Pride
Just the same way Wankel didn’t invent the rotary engine, Mazda wasn’t the only producers of cars with rotary engines. Mercedes and GM had been in the game already, but Mazda’s brilliant executions and improvement of the engine has almost made the name rotary engine synonymous to them.
12. Sports Champion
Mazda’s rotary engine might be small but they can supply lots of power. This immense power generation was what made it possible for Mazda’s 787B, a sports car, to claim the title of the first rotary engine car to win the 24 Hours LeMans way back in 1991.
11. It Saved Mazda, Once
Tsuneji Matsuda, Mazda’s president after the war, wanted his company to stand out from the lot and to achieve this, he turned his eyes on the rotary engines that were already popular in Germany.
The introduction of the engines saw Mazda’s sales rise exponentially and solidify their grip on the auto world. But times have changed and Mazda is looking to pair this engine with its EV in a bid to save their fading company.
10. King of Rotaries
Mazda’s engineering team had taken an aggressive pursuit on rotary engines, developing over twenty variations of the engine. Each variant is suited to a specific need, model, or material, all in a bid to increase their output and performance, which is something they’ve certainly mastered over the years.
9. Heavy maintenance culture
Mazda’s Rotary engines need the owner to be completely attentive to the processes involved in maintaining the engine. So, if you own a car with a rotary engine, you might want to consider taking those oil changes, fluid checks, suspension checks, and brake fluid check very seriously. That is, until you fancy getting a new one.
8. Range extenders for EVs
Mazda, like every other auto company, has eyes on going electric, and it did just that but the EV had a petty range of 124 miles. In 2013, Mazda introduced their secret weapon, a rotary engine that could recharge the batteries and help the EV double its range. So the prototype Mazda2 RE used the rotary engine as an onboard generator.
7. Mazda and the Rotary-Hydrogen
Hydrogen can be used to generate electricity without any trace of carbon emission, which is something that Mazda has tried to fix in more than one situation. Mazda's aim was to modify the rotary engine so that it could run on hydrogen and still deliver the same output as before.
6. Hydrogen’s Performance
Using hydrogen as fuel, there was a sharp increase in output. The Premacy Hydrogen RE, a hybrid car, was able to generate more power. But Mazda’s engineers have indicated that their Hydrogen-Rotary engine would be better suited as a generator to manufacturing plants. Hydrogen vehicles have the potential to be very popular today.
5. It’s a Smoker
Mazda’s Rotary engines can smoke quite a bit. It blows out clouds of smoke in moments filling everywhere with its statement blue smoke, which only hints that the engine has consumed too much oil. Whatever you do, just be sure to stay well away from the rear exhaust pipes.
4. It Dies a Slow Death
Several rotary engine cars produced by Mazda suffer from this and it grows worse with time because the engine's fuel and fluid consumption increases and the emissions become worse. Also, the engine’s power output would gradually deteriorate until it finally stops functioning. It has badly affected the reliability of the Mazda RX-7.
3. It’s got Issues over 60,000 miles
They’ve always seemed to be suffering from lots engine issues and even if you own a Mazda RX-8 that has covered over sixty miles and is currently in need of engine repairs, then you need to trash it. Because Mazda knows their engines becomes faulty after 60,000 miles and have made provisions to help you find one at a good rate.
2. The highest speed it gives
We’ve mentioned earlier that the Mazda’s 787B won the 1991 LeMans. It achieved the feat with an impressive roar backed by a four-rotor engine that supplied 700 HP at an insane 10,500 RPM. This impressive feat has been replicated in several sports cars produced by Mazda, like the RX-7 and RX-8. The rotary’s size isn’t a limitation in any way.
1. Still not loved by many
Mazda’s rotary engines are known for their poor fuel consumption and high carbon monoxide emission due to incomplete combustion of the fuel in the engine chamber. This means it’s going to alienate some drivers. Over the years, this has led environmentally friendly gearheads like us to avoid it.