Mazda Rotary Plans ‘On Back Burner’

There is no rotary god as Wankel range-extender hybrid looks shaky.

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Photo: Mazda

The rotary engine’s comeback as a EV range extender is either delayed or canceled. That and more in The Morning Shift for July 12, 2021.

1st Gear: ‘Timing Of Its Introduction Is Undecided’

Maybe it was just too good to be true, too wonderful to be believed. The Mazda MX-30 rotary range extender has gotten pushed further back, as Automotive News reports:

The rotary range extender had been expected next year as part of the company’s multiple-solution approach to electrification. Mazda Motor Corp. still plans to resurrect the rotary — but first as a power-assist technology for series and plug-in hybrid offerings.

“We are still considering using rotary engine as a range extender, but the timing of its introduction is undecided,” spokesman Masahiro Sakata said.

Mazda’s commitment, however, may be shaky. Japanese media reports say Mazda has scrapped plans for using the rotary range extender in the MX-30. Mazda ditched the rotary range extender partly because it required a bigger battery that would make the vehicle too expensive, Japan’s Nikkei business daily and Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun reported.

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AN said the tech was on “the back burner,” but I’m having a hard time holding on to hope. The non-range extender MX-30 is fine, at least.

2nd Gear: Nissan’s Serial Hybrid Tech Not Coming To Infiniti Anytime Soon

The other cool piece of serial-hybrid tech out of Japan is Nissan’s e-power. Don’t expect it in your next Infiniti, though, as Automotive News also reports:

Infiniti has ditched plans — at least for now — to bring a promising serial-hybrid technology to the U.S. The decision could delay the luxury brand’s electrification plans in its biggest market.

[...]

Infiniti dealers said they were told by the manufacturer that e-Power did not deliver the performance required to be competitive in the U.S. The cost of implementing the technology also apparently was a consideration.

“They couldn’t bring it in at the right cost,” Infiniti National Dealer Advisory Board Chairman Ed Lennon Jr. said. “I don’t think it helped them with their CAFE rating.”

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Going hybrid-electric always seems like a good move in the luxury car space here in America, so I really don’t know what could have been wrong. The same tech is a big hit in Japan, so I don’t think it’s e-power itself that’s the problem.

3rd Gear: GM Recalls 400,000 Pickups Over Exploding Side Airbags

Bring in your 2015 and 2016 Chevy and GMC pickups, as the Detroit Free Press warns:

General Motors is recalling more than 400,000 pickup trucks in the U.S. because the side air bags can explode without warning and spew parts into the cabin.

The recall covers certain 2015 and 2016 Chevrolet and GMC Sierra 1500, 2500, and 3500 trucks.

Documents posted Friday by U.S. safety regulators say the air bag inflator can rupture or the end cap can fly off on both sides of the trucks. Documents say three inflators ruptured in 2015 Silverados last month, one in Florida and two in Texas. All three trucks were unoccupied at the time, and GM says it has no reports of injuries.

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There was another big GM airbag-related recall last month.

4th Gear: Strike Continues At Volvo Truck Factory In Virginia

The UAW represents roughly 2,900 of the 3,300 people who work at the Volvo plant, and they have rejected a third tentative agreement from Volvo. That means the strike is still on, as the Freep reports:

UAW-represented workers at a Volvo truck plant in southwestern Virginia on Friday rejected a third try at ratifying a collective bargaining agreement, a move signaling divisions not just between the company and its workers but also between union leaders who supported the deal and their members.

The immediate impact of the vote means a strike that began in early June — the second strike during the negotiations — will continue at Volvo’s largest truck manufacturing facility.

[...]

Workers who have spoken with the Free Press say they are concerned about the cost of health insurance, retiree health care and pay that doesn’t keep pace with the cost of living. Those who said they would vote no said they want a better deal from the company.

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5th Gear: Europe Wants Its Own Chinese-Style Infrastructure Projects

This story kind of makes no sense until it does. China’s famed “Belt and Road” projects are nominally about building infrastructure in post-colonial countries, but also about indebting them to China. Most recently, one highway to nowhere made the news for threatening to bankrupt the entire country of Montenegro. Wealthier European nations want in on this kind of action? Reuters explains:

Suspicious of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative to link Europe to Asia via infrastructure in a bid for greater influence, the EU set out a formal path for an ambitious “connectivity” plan from 2022.

“We see China using economic and financial means to increase its political influence everywhere in the world. It’s useless moaning about this, we must offer alternatives,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters at a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels.

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Those comments are rich coming from Germany, which is only just out of the spotlight for trapping the entire neighboring country of Greece into debt. It sounds like Germany and the rest of the G7 isn’t really worrying about roads, here.

Reverse: The Geodesic Dome Of Cars

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Neutral: How Are You?

I am in Florida and some twist of upgrade fate has given me a Volvo V60 as a rental car. I did not know this was possible.