For years Mazda remained adamant that diesel and advanced gasoline engines would be enough to satisfy its needs for more fuel-efficient cars, but last year, in a major shift in strategy, the automaker decided it would follow the crowd and embrace hybrids and electric powertrains.
The change in heart was revealed by Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi who has previously revealed that his company will have hybrid and electric powertrains in its lineup by 2015, although there will still be a focus on improving the efficiency of both Mazda’s diesel and petrol engines.
Now, the first tangible evidence of Mazda’s electric future has been revealed in the form of a new U.S. patent filing for the design of an offset wheel-mounted motor for electric and hybrid vehicles. Mazda’s design is similar to an in-wheel electric motor except that the motor in this case is offset from the wheel axis and connected via a gearset. This design allows more room for a conventional suspension assembly, something in-wheel motors do not. Importantly, it could also accommodate a hybrid configuration, with a conventional gasoline engine driving the main axle and the offset wheel-mounted motor acting as a secondary power source.
This isn’t the only powertrain-based patent Mazda has filed in the recent past. Last year the automaker also filed a patent for a new direct-injection system designed for rotary engines, a powerplant notorious for its high fuel consumption and emissions.
Follow the jump below to see a more substantial description of the latest offset wheel-mounted motor patent filing.