Mazda May Bring Back The Rotary Engine As An EV Range Extender

The moment we’ve all been waiting for could be almost upon us – but not in the way we’d hoped.


According to Automotive News, Mazda is closely considering bringing back the rotary engine that put it on the map. But unlike the RX-7 and RX-8, it won’t power the wheels directly. Instead if will serve as a range-extender for an electric vehicle.

The Japanese automaker is reportedly developing a new EV to debut in 2019 that will be powered purely by gasoline in markets like Japan and Europe, where commuting distances are relatively short. But in North America, it’s tipped to use a range-extender – a gasoline generator to replenish the batteries for longer drives.

That version could employ a small rotary engine, which is inherently compact and generates a lot of power with little vibration – ostensibly making it ideal for hybrid applications and giving Mazda a way to keep the technology alive.

If all this strikes you as somewhat disappointing, take heart: a directly rotary-powered sports car could still follow. The determining factor, however, may have more to do with market conditions than technical capability.

“Are we going to really sell that many models of sports cars? There aren’t that many auto companies selling multiple sports cars,” Mazda’s powertrain chief Mutsuo Hitomi told AN, referencing the smaller MX-5 Miata.

For our part, we’d urge Hitomi-san to look to his domestic competitors: Nissan offers both the 370Z and GT-R, Toyota is coming out with a new Supra to slot in above the 86, and Honda is tipped to be working on another sports car to join the NSX. Mazda may be smaller than all of them, but has cultivated a sportier image that may require a halo sports car to uphold.

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  • Knotmyrealname

    ? The same mega thirsty Rotary engine? Seems an odd choice?

    • Christian Wimmer

      My thoughts exactly.

    • LWOAP

      I’m pretty sure they are going to make improvements to increase fuel efficiency. If it’s going to be a range extender; having a very thirsty engine is a really dumb. I doubt Mazda would do something so counterproductive but there’s no real way of knowing for certain.

      • Knotmyrealname

        I guess, and maybe you’re right, but rotaries are mostly known for their performance and thirst.

    • Six_Tymes

      “a small rotary engine”

      that means different, and not be the same.

    • redav

      I think it’s a good choice. Rotaries are very small & light for their power, which is good for an on-board generator. A single rotor engine should also be between an I4 and V6 for smoothness. A rotary can be pretty efficient if it runs at the right rpm and only that rpm–something very doable for a generator. Running it across the wide rpm range and constantly changing its speed is what kills its efficiency. The big problem I see is emissions.

      Mazda is now at least two generations beyond the 13B Renesis used in the RX-8. They developed the 16X which switched to aluminum, increased displacement, added direct injection, upped efficiency, & made other improvements, but they still couldn’t get the emissions low enough, so it never went into production. The next generation has been called “Sky-R” (Skyactiv rotary). This range extender should be in that family.

      As for emissions, maybe they will use a particle trap like their international diesels. Given that set up re-injects collected unburned fuel into the cylinder (which finds its way into the oil & increasing its level over time), the same system would reduce emissions on a rotary AND partially compensate for lost oil. You’d still have to religiously change the oil, but you wouldn’t have to add between changes. They’ve also made hydrogen versions to avoid emissions, but hydrogen is just a terrible option. I’m more interested in natural gas–it really wouldn’t help climate warming, but it would do wonders for smog/soot and should improve the reliability of the engine.

  • javier

    that car is absurd looking

    • Jason Miller

      Wrong.

    • Eythan Aldrich

      like yourself…..sorry your argument is invalid -_-

      • Cupboi

        Lol, calm down. Maybe he meant absurd in a positive way.

  • Six_Tymes

    OK, now this sounds interesting.

  • Jason Miller

    They already did this with a Demio (Mazda 2) a while ago….

    • redav

      Yes, but those were nothing more than long-term prototypes, just like the EV-only Demio. This one would presumably be a full-fledged production model. It also should use a significantly updated engine.

  • Rocc E. Normyss

    I love that future RX7. I’d buy it yesterday!

  • Bash

    I’ll believe it when i see it.

    • MarketAndChurch

      lol I was just about to type that

  • Cupboi

    I’m tired of this wishy washy bullshit. If they’re not gonna make it, then they should just say it.

  • Donal Maher

    Makes sense from a packaging point of view. Very compact, little or no vibration. Could be direct drive connected to the generator and run at a constant and optimal speed. Efficiency worries can be tamed then, as you are not operating over a total rev range, just running at optimal all the time.

    However, all of that doesn’t really matter, as EVs are the washing machine equivalent of cars ie a domestic appliance.
    We want a minimum twin rotor turbo nutter bastid proper rotary sports car!! We will never get it, but, it is what we want!

  • redav

    If Mazda wanted a halo sports car, and if they went with an Acura NSX / Porsche 918 style super-hybrid using a rotary & electric motor–yeah, I think I’d like one.

  • Infinite1

    Go ahead and through that into the mix, Mazda. A rotary hybrid sounds good, hopefully, it might make it’s way into an RX successor if all goes well.

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