The next generation of Mazda’s rotary engine design may ditch spark plugs in favor of laser beams. According to Autocar, the upcoming 16X engine will improve combustion efficiency by using tiny, high-powered lasers (yes, we said frickin’ lasers) to ignite the fuel/air mixture.
The current Mazda RX-8 is being phased out of production, due in part because to sluggish sales and difficulties meeting stringent emissions regulations. We already knew that Mazda was developing a new version of its famed rotary engine, which was rumored to debut as early as 2013.
Autocar confirms that the new engine will displace 1.6 liters, up from 1.3 liters in the current unit. The new rotary, codenamed 16X, will be physically smaller than its predecessor and partially built from aluminum, cutting weight. Removing spark plugs from the engine is said to improve overall combustion efficiency, which could improve torque and fuel economy for the future rotary engine.
Researchers in Japan have developed tiny, high-powered lasers that are smaller than traditional spark plugs, according to Autocar. They could allow more precise control over ignition timing, making for leaner engine mixtures and subsequentlylower emissions.
A new generation of Mazda rotary car, possibly dubbed RX-7 or RX-9, should debut within the next few years, although the biggest hurdle appears to lie with bringing the Wankel up to global emission standards. Are you excited about the possibility of a new rotary engine design, or simply another iteration of Mazda’s famed RX line? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.