Mazda has provided further details about its roadmap during a technology briefing recently, where it touched upon topics relating to its ‘Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030’ long-term vision. This includes the return of the rotary engine as a range extender for electric vehicles (which it calls xEV), among other things.
As a brief recap, the Japanese automaker has already spoken at length about some of the new technologies on its way, including the SkyActiv-X compression ignition engine, SkyActiv-Vehicle Architecture and the second stage of its Kodo design philosophy.
The company is aiming to reduce carbon emissions from its vehicles by as much as 50% from 2010 levels by the year 2030, and 90% by 2050. Even so, the company doesn’t believe that the internal combustion engine (ICE) will go away anytime soon, hence it is not budging from its goal to perfect it further. This includes participating in the research of algae biofuel with academics and the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
Following the commercialisation of the SkyActiv-X engine, all new Mazda cars will feature some form of electrification, with 95% of them being hybrid models, while the remaining 5% are pure electric vehicles (EVs). Such a move is necessary in markets such as the United States, Europe and China, where stricter emissions regulations are gradually coming into effect.
Mazda says its EV will be developed fully in-house following three important concepts, with the first being the “joy of driving.” We’ve heard plenty of the company’s ‘Jinba-Ittai’ philosophy and it intends to realise a feeling of unity between its battery-powered EVs and the driver.
One way to do so is by adapting its G-Vectoring Control (GVC) technology to its EVs. In cars powered by an ICE, GVC controls vehicle behaviour by reducing engine torque slightly but for EVs, the system works with the car’s regenerative braking system instead. The EVs will also receive the brand’s latest GVC Plus torque vectoring by brake technology that is found in the latest CX-5.
Moving on to the major talking point, the rotary engine. We’ve already been told the rotary will be used as a range extender, but why? As Mazda explains, the revolving motion of the rotor allows the engine to be integrated with an electric motor which has a similar rotational structure. This makes for a more compact and lightweight unit compared to using a reciprocating engine, allowing for more freedom in designing the motor room layout
Furthermore, rotary engines do not have an engine valve system, is well balanced, offers smooth combustion and has a simple structure. These characteristics result in low vibrations and noises generated across frequencies in terms of in-car NVH.
According to Mazda, the rotary engine will form the base of its xEVs, and with different combinations of generators, batteries and fuel tank sizes, enables the company to offer different types of xEVs (series hybrid, plug-in hybrid and range-extender hybrids) using the same vehicle packaging.
This flexibility allows different degrees of electrification to be introduced depending on the energy mix of each region. For instance, countries that generate their electricity from clean energy sources but lack charging infrastructure would find it beneficial to get a range extender option. Meanwhile, countries that rely on thermal plants would find plug-in hybrids and series hybrids as more advantageous in terms of reducing CO2 emissions on a well-to-wheel basis.
Mazda also claims its rotary engine is compatible with a diverse range of fuels, including liquified petroleum gas (LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG) and even hydrogen, further widening its application. The company says that its rotary-equipped EV will be able to function as a generator during emergency situations, powered by easy-to-find LPG.
On the topic of connectivity, future vehicles will offer smartphone-like digital conveniences that are backed by telematics services and on-board communication devices that leverage on its alliance with Toyota.
As for when we will see these technologies, Mazda says it has already begun work on its EV, with first test drives slated for next year ahead of a target market launch around 2020. The more interesting mention is the “leadoff batter” in its next-generation line-up, which will be a model that incorporates some of the technology mentioned. Previous reports hint at the model being the all-new Mazda 3, but we will only find out more during the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.
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