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20th Anniversary Mazda MX-5 Miata

Will be rolled out globally across entire product line by 2015

In May of this year, President Barack Obama proposed a 35.5 mpg nationwide average fuel economy standard that would be achieved by 2016. The average for cars will be raised to 39 mpg, while the average for light trucks will be raised to 30 mpg.

Mazda is currently known for its line of sporty vehicles, but is currently lagging its competitors in fuel economy. To remedy that, the company is implementing a complete redesign of its four-cylinder engines that will see them paired with new small and light six-speed automatic transmissions.

The new direct-injection gasoline engines will have a combination of smaller displacement, higher power output, and greater efficiency. The fuel injector is placed in the combustion chamber of a direct-injection engine, as opposed to the intake valve in a conventional fuel-injected engine. Mazda is also combining its direct-injection engines with a new electric high-pressure fuel pump and variable intake and exhaust valve timing that will allow more optimal combustion in a wider rev range. The company plans to incorporate these developments into its rotary engines.

Seita Kanai, the head of Mazda's R&D department, said that the redesign of Mazda's 2.0 liter four-cylinder engines paired with the new transmissions would result in a fuel economy increase to 32 mpg from 22 mpg in the city. Highway fuel economy would increase to 42 mpg from 32 mpg.

While not confirming the use of dual-clutch technology, Kanai stated that the next-generation automatic transmission would provide the quick, direct shift quality of a double-clutch transmission system. "No slip means there won't be wasteful heat generation," enthused Kanai.

Idle-stop engine cut-off, regenerative braking, electric power steering, and electric water pumps are just some of the technologies also being considered for inclusion in the company's quest for fuel economy. If Mazda does decide to adopt these technologies across its entire production line, economies of scale could enable the company to bring them to market at a lower cost than other vehicle manufacturers. BMW has already implemented many of these technologies in its "EfficientDynamics" program.

Mazda was particularly enthusiastic last year about idle-stop technologies when it talked about its plans last year, but has been forced to scale back its hype. The Environmental Protection Agency doesn't account for the technology during its fuel economy testing, which can reduce fuel consumption by up to ten percent. Mazda doesn't want to foot the bill for installing it if it can't market it to consumers.

Weight reduction is also an important component of Mazda's plan. An additional 3-5 mpg could be achieved through the use of lighter structural materials and new bonding technologies. Mazda will also use its single nanotech catalyst, which reduces the need for expensive palladium and platinum in the catalytic converter by 70-90 percent.

There is a catch though to all of the new technologies though. Robert Davis, Senior Vice President of Mazda's North American Operations R&D, said that the new powertrains cannot be retrofitted to any of its existing product lines. Therefore, the new engines and transmissions will be incorporated into the company's new models as they are developed and introduced.

The redesigned MX-5 Miata convertible or Mazda5 are the most likely to integrate the new technologies first. The entire model lineup will be equipped with the new engines by 2015.
"We want to provide this technology to all owners, not just through a few eco-friendly vehicles," stated Kanai during a media briefing.

Mazda is also considering bringing new diesel engines to the North American market. However, it does not currently have an automatic transmission for diesel engines.

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RE: Auto transmissions
By tastyratz on 8/25/2009 10:57:30 AM , Rating: 3
We are walking a line here Brandon,
The problem is intelligence. No automatic transmission can ever anticipate a drivers next move fully, they are always reactionary by nature after the driver has already begun. While new transmissions have improved this by more accurate modeling, they will ALWAYS be a step behind. This leaves something to be wanted in the car/driver connection.

While new high end expensive sports cars are often equipped with no holds barred automatic transmissions - the people driving those cars are generally not true race car drivers and rich yuppies who want the race car driver experience. Taylor to your audience and you have a car that can bring 90% of drivers to 90% capacity instead of 10% of drivers to 100% capacity.
While auto transmissions today are faster shifting, etc - they are again still only reactionary. REAL manual transmission cars are much better than that corolla 5 speed - ecu programming (decel fuel cut, etc) and drivetrain weight are largely responsible for generic consumer grade cars and slow shifting.

RE: Auto transmissions
By bldckstark on 8/25/2009 12:34:45 PM , Rating: 3
Many of the people posting here are confusing fast automatic transmissions with dual clutch manuals. A dual clutch transmission is not an automatic transmission. It has a clutch that must be used at starts and stops. Shifting is still done manually by the driver. They are used in the F1 series among others, and high line sports cars such as Ferrari.

A paddle shifting automatic transmission can be very close in shift time to a dual clutch manual, but it still loses power to the hydraulic system required to perform the slip and lockup of the gears. It does not have a clutch, and it has thus far always been slower than a comparable dual clutch manual transmission.

RE: Auto transmissions
By bldckstark on 8/25/2009 12:41:45 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, I decided to re-inform myself on the current state of DCT's and found that I was sadly mis-informed. Please ignore my previous post.

RE: Auto transmissions
By Jeffk464 on 8/26/2009 1:20:13 AM , Rating: 2
True but most cars now lock up the torque converter when not shifting or at least once up to cruising speed. This really cuts down on the inefficiency of autos.

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