UNDER THE HOOD OF THE Mazda RX-7 hums a hot little rotary engine that soon may help cool the broccoli in supermarkets. That's the "green" plan at Rotary Power International Inc., a Wood-Ridge (N.J.) defense contractor. To lessen its dependence on military business, the company aims to turn Mazda's rotary gasoline engines into clean-burning natural-gas engines for big chillers. In the U.S., that market is virtually untapped. But in energy-stingy countries such as Japan, natural gas accounts for almost all of the commercial refrigeration and air-conditioning market.
Why modify the RX-7's engine? Because it is produced in large volumes, which makes it suitable for price-sensitive customers, says Rotary Power President Richard M.H. Thompson. But he also hopes to refine his company's own rotary engines for civilian jobs such as generating electricity for periods of peak demand. Starting in December, a Mazda engine will get a workout at a New Jersey A&P supermarket.