Who knew? – It’s the 50th anniversary of the Mazda rotary engine. Mazda is the only carmaker to mass-produce and bring to market the rotary engine. Had it not been for the uniqueness of the rotary engine, there would probably be no Mazda. In the 1950s and 1960s, Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry wanted to streamline the number of carmakers. Thinking that bigger manufacturers would be more likely to compete with US and European heavyweights, Mazda was afraid they would be vulnerable to a forced merger.
But a carmaker pioneering a bold new type of engine would be much more likely to maintain its independence. The unconventional rotary engine appealed to fans and offered a distinct reason to buy a Mazda. The successful introduction of the rotary-powered Cosmo Sport in 1967 launched Mazda as an influential carmaker.
Automakers have been interested in the aerodynamics of vehicle design since the 1930s. Recently the effects of aerodynamics on fuel economy have made this a bigger issue in the race to improve gas mileage. So does the shape and design of a vehicle really make much of a difference on fuel economy?
There are lots of factors to look at, but the speed of the vehicle plays a big role in the results. A formula for the coefficient of drag (how easily a vehicle moves through the air) has the force against the vehicle as: coefficient of drag x frontal area x density of air x speed squared. These forces were once physically measured in a wind tunnel, but now sophisticated computer programs can give this information based on the shape of the vehicle.
In stop-and-go driving, aerodynamics has little effect on fuel efficiency, but at 70 mph you have four times the force working against the vehicle than you do at 35 mph. If you take away ten percent of the drag coefficient in a typical vehicle, you could improve miles per gallon by .5 mpg. In the overall scheme of things, this can be a big deal.
For the upcoming solar eclipse NASA warns that except during the brief total phase of the solar eclipse that the only safe way to view the event is through a special-purpose solar filter. Volvo being passionate about safety has produced a custom eclipse viewer for XC60.
The viewer is essentially a large shade made of ISO-certified 12312-2 material that clips onto the panoramic moonroof and allows occupants to view the eclipse without risk to their eyes, effectively turning the XC60 into a tiny observatory.