Mazda Officially Announces the Return of the Rotary Engine As Range Extenders for Electric Cars

See? And you thought all that praying to Ahura Mazda was for nothing, right? Well it worked: Mazda’s legendary Wankel rotary engine is coming back! To cars! Of course, Ahura Mazda’s power isn’t exactly what it was back in 500 BCE, so there’s a catch: the rotaries will just be used as range extenders for upcoming Mazda electric cars. Still, the rotary’s back! Finally, you can have apex seal problems on an electric car!

I kid, I kid! I love the rotary!

Mazda is planning to have 95 percent combustion-electric hybrid vehicles by 2030 (the remaining 5 percent will be be pure battery-electric vehicles), and are planning to use rotaries as range extenders for the hybrid vehicles, citing the rotary’s small size to power output ratio, quiet operation, and fuel flexibility:

The rotary engine’s small size and high power output make multiple electrification technology solutions possible via a shared packaging layout. Taking advantage of the rotary engine’s compatibility with gaseous fuels, the rotary-powered range extender is designed to also burn liquefied petroleum gas and provide a source of electricity in emergencies.

Advertisement
The rotary engine was first used as a range extender on the Mazda Cosmo, when it extended that car’s range from 0 miles to however many miles you wanted by adding more gasoline.

A rotary is a pretty good choice for a range-extending engine for not just the reasons cited above, but because it’s pretty much vibration-free and has fewer moving parts than a conventional piston engine, helping with maintenance and longevity.

Advertisement

It’s possible the rotaries used may be small and oriented with the rotor on a horizontal plane rather than a vertical, as seen in this Japanese patent drawing from September:

Advertisement

A flat, horizontal layout will likely make packaging easier, possibly allowing a rotary range extender to be housed in an underfloor compartment along with a hybrid’s batteries.

The first Mazda hybrid with a rotary range extender is expected to come out in 2020. Sure, it’s not an all-new rotary RX-7, but I’m just happy to see the rotary engine still staying alive and relevant.

Share This Story

About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)