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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: engine shutoff at idle
By Mojo the Monkey on 8/25/2009 1:13:52 PM , Rating: 1
Starting an engine produces more wear on an engine than anything. While it makes sense in a car like the Prius where the gas motor isn't necessarily needed all the time, for a gas only car, it would prematurely wear the motor.

What the hell are you talking about, Fit? Have you ever actually driven a hybrid car? The gas engine is engaged all the time. It is constantly turning off, and then back on during acceleration from a stop sign or light. And this isn't the volt we're talking about, the engine engages the drive train. Just because there are some instances where the engine does not turn on until 5-10mph during intentionally slow rolling, instead of its typically instant application on normal gas pedal depression, does not mean that this somehow wears the engine less.

There is no difference in the auto start/stop implemented in a normal vs. hybrid car - the theoretical wear is the same and the engines have been proving highly durable. Actually, I believe the GMC pseudo-hybrid truck line does this - using the battery to do nothing other than shut off at idle. No catastrophes reported yet.

Subsequent posters are correct about engine wear being negligible when used after being warmed up (which comes quicker now), new design, and better oil.

RE: engine shutoff at idle
By JediJeb on 8/25/2009 4:12:37 PM , Rating: 2
Most large trucks have been using idle stop for years now. If the truck is sitting still for a set time the engine turns off, and I believe the time is programmable. It is mostly used by companies to keep costs down from when some drivers leave the engine running while they make a delivery or go eat and such.

RE: engine shutoff at idle
By Jeffk464 on 8/26/2009 1:22:12 AM , Rating: 2
I think companies do it to piss us drivers off.

RE: engine shutoff at idle
By Alexstarfire on 8/26/2009 4:04:27 AM , Rating: 2
I find it sad that not 1, nor 2, but THREE people don't know how the Prius actually works. Now what I say isn't necessarily true for all hybrids, but it is for the Prius. First off, no, the engine does not have to reach operating temperature before it'll shut off the engine. Secondly, there is a larger starting motor as to reduce wear from starting the ICE. Third, the oil does not drain when the engine is off unless the car is also turned off.

And actually, an auto-stop is quite different from the way a car like the Prius drives, only turning off when at a stop compared to turning off when no power is needed (like coasting). It was easily the first thing I noticed when I had to drive my dad's Civic Hybrid.

RE: engine shutoff at idle
By Mojo the Monkey on 8/26/2009 11:00:00 AM , Rating: 2
Right, but the point of the intial poster was that the auto-stopping of the engine would do the damage than that it doing so is SOMEHOW different for engine wear in a hybrid vs a regular car with auto-stop. Its the starting and stopping that would theoretically create the concern, not whether it occasionally kicks on at 5-10mph or turns off during cruising. Its the re-engagement that is of concern- and is obviously something they dealt with properly.

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