Mazda range-extender a portent for rotary enthusiasts

Rotary engine.
Rotary engine.

Mazda North American Operations president and CEO Masahiro Moro revealed that the range-extender rotary engine is a step towards a full-blown rotary engine application in the not-too-distant future.

“We have all around the world but especially here in the United States a huge number of fans for the rotary engine,” he said at the launch of the Mazda6 facelift at last week’s Los Angeles motor show. “And they are encouraging us not to give up on the rotary engine, as very strong supporters.

“Of course, that is very important, because if there are no fans, then there is no business (case for the rotary engine). Those fans look to the rotary engine primarily as a power unit of course.

“But the range extender rotary engine will be good news for these fans because it means that Mazda is keeping up on developing the rotary engine (as a power unit too), so we are making that happen as a first step. And let’s see in the future how our business is going to keep growing, so we are able to come up with a plan for something exciting (beyond that).”

Earlier this year, Mazda confirmed that the rotary engine range-extender is slated for production sometime during 2019, in an upcoming hybrid electric vehicle rather than a sports car replacement for the RX 8. However the sports car RX engines were originally from the RX 2 and RX3, so this engine will do the same, I am sure.

Previously, at the SkyActiv-X technology seminar in Frankfurt earlier this year, it was pointed out that the range extender will have no physical connection to the driving wheels, instead serving only as a top up for the battery pack, in much the same way as Dr Porsche did with the Lohner-Porsche in 1902.

The seminar was told that Mazda is developing an EV model for 2019. “It will be available with a rotary range extender.

The last Mazda model to use a rotary powertrain was the RX-8 sportscar that was sold from 2003 to 2012. It was the successor to the RX-7 that sold across three generations from 1978 to 2002.

I used an RX 7 rotary in two sports sedans I built to race in Australia. Compared to the Lotus Twin Cam engines, the rotaries were fantastic – more power, more reliable and much cheaper to run.