Association, Inc.

Issue No. 1, 2008

Japan's new engine technology

by Peter Nunn

Hybrids, diesels, electric cars, fuel cells—Japan’s car industry is now working hard to develop the clean, efficient new-technology engines and powertrains of tomorrow.

The world is certainly going green.  At the same time, the enthusiast concept of power and performance is far from forgotten.  New and exciting Japanese supercar engines are on the way (one is already here).  So let’s take a look at some of the cutting-edge engine technologies making news in Japan right now.

Toyota has just launched a completely new Crown Hybrid with a 3.5-litre V6 and high- output electric motor.  The car’s sophisticated rear-drive hybrid system is set up to deliver 4.5-litre driving performance with 2.0-litre class economy and low emissions.  An EV (electric vehicle) mode lets the Crown run purely on silent, zero-emission battery power.  The Crown is also one of the first to meet Japan’s new 2015 fuel efficiency standards.

For Nissan’s X-Trail SUV, a new clean-diesel engine will be introduced this autumn.  Based on the M9R engine co-developed with Renault, the Nissan version will incorporate high-performance catalysts and advanced engine management technologies, enabling the X-Trail also to meet the new fuel efficiency standards.

Turning to diesels, Honda’s fresh 2.2-litre, four-cylinder i-DTEC turbodiesel appears in new European versions of the Accord and builds on the fine reputation of the outgoing i-CTDi unit.  Indeed, Honda’s i-DTEC is so clean it already meets Euro 5, and at the same time both power and torque levels have been increased for a sportier driving experience.

Subaru’s brand new 2.0-litre diesel, the world's first boxer diesel engine for passenger cars. Thanks to its unique horizontally-opposed layout, Subaru Boxer Diesel achieves minimal vibrations and noise with lightweight and compact design. It comes with the Outback and Legacy offering both excellent fuel efficiency and smooth acceleration.

Mitsubishi, like many, continues to work on small electric cars.  Its ingenious i MiEV runs with a small, rear-mounted 47 kW electric motor and a set of compact, state-of-the-art lithium ion batteries.  Quick and quiet, easy to charge, CO2-free and with an ever-expanding driving range, the i MiEV is clearly one intelligent small car for the near future.

No discussion about Japanese engine technology would be complete without Mazda’s prized RENESIS rotary.  Another unique piece of engineering, this small, smooth, high-revving two-rotor engine has won many fans and Mazda has confirmed that a new, clean RENESIS with improved economy is under development for the early 2010s.

Mazda continues to work on an even greener, ‘smarter’ hydrogen-fuelled version of the RENESIS rotary as well, as the pace of Japan’s engine development shows absolutely no sign of letting up.