Mazda’s been working on a new rotary engine for pretty much forever at this point, though since the demise of the RX-8 in 2012, it’s been car vaporware, salivated over by some Internet blogs but never materializing. But now we have an update! The rotary engine is still happening, Mazda said recently, despite what you may have heard.
In fact: I’m about to blow your mind by telling you that Mazda actually never stopped working on the rotary engine. So to say it’s still working on it is kind of a “no shit” statement.
Here’s Kiyoshi Fujiwara, the company’s senior managing executive officer of research and development, to CarAdvice last week:
“For surviving, Mazda needs money to spend on autonomous driving technology, co-pilot and next-gen SkyActiv-D, and hybrid systems and electrifications. Therefore we need the money…,” said Fujiwara.
“After that, if we can get money, probably we make a more higher and better brand, therefore we need a rotary engine. We are still working on a rotary engine itself with a limited number of engineers, but we have to get money now and also we have to be positioned to be able to become higher brand image. We can do that [eventually]. We don’t give up.”
Fujiwara then got wistful. From CarAdvice:
“[Timing] depends on the business itself. I am now 57-58 years old, 30 years later I will die. This rotary engine is my dream and also our chief designer, he also has the same dream, therefore I have some years left to make this dream come true. Therefore, 10 years or 20 years, no, I died [sic]. Before I retire, that’s my dream.”
The last we’ve seen of the Mazda rotary—which found a home in various cars, most notably the RX-7 and RX-8 sports cars—was the RX-Vision, but that so far is just a concept. At the time, Mazda said the engine and the car were originally intended to give the brand some prestige and push it upmarket, not unlike what BMW M and Mercedes-AMG do for their respective brands.
But Mazda ran into some issues—namely, emissions regulations and the inherent challenges associated with making rotary engines environmentally friendly. These are the issues that have always dogged the rotary engine, and are increasingly difficult to surmount.
Mazda also kind of ran out of money, since building a rotary engine is pretty far down on the carmakers list of priorities.
In a different, if possibly related, development, it also recently emerged that the engine could include lasers, in part to help solve its emissions problems. Lasers!
“As you know, flame propagation is an issue in rotary engines. We are looking at laser ignition and plasma ignition, but laser is very expensive,” said [Hidetoshi Kudo, Executive Officer in charge of R&D Administration and Product Strategy].
A new Mazda rotary engine is going to happen! Or it’s not! Executives did not offer a timeline.
They’re still working on it, though, and from the sound of it, will probably never stop.