The much-anticipated return of the Mazda rotary engine has gained further momentum following endorsement from senior management, with Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) president and CEO Masahiro Moro confirming that the rotary range-extender currently under development is a precursor to a full-blown application in the coming years.
“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 reveal of the facelifted Mazda6 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).”
The Japanese carmaker revealed in August that the range-extender Wankel rotary engine is set to enter production at some stage in 2019 and will be found under the bonnet of a forthcoming hybrid electric vehicle (EV), as opposed to a new sports car that replaces the RX-8.
Mazda Motor Corporation (MMC) director and senior managing executive officer with oversight of research and development Kiyoshi Fujiwara detailed the new rotary application at the company’s 'SkyActiv-X' technology event in Frankfurt, Germany earlier this year.
Mr Fujiwara said the rotary engine will not be physically connected to the driving wheels, with it responsible for recharging the battery pack instead, which would be similar in set-up to how a motorcycle engine operates under the rear-end of the BMW i3 REx.
“Mazda is developing an EV model by ourselves for 2019,” he said. “It will be available with a rotary range-extender."
As previously reported, it is understood that the range-extender is a redevelopment of the 1.6-litre '16X' rotary engine project, accentuating the scalability of the flexible engine family, from pure-electric driving range booster to the potential powerplant behind a high-performance sportscar in the future.
In 2013, journalists test drove a bespoke Mazda2 concept, called the TPEV, which used a rotary range-extender powertrain.
On sale from 2003 to 2012, the RX-8 sports car was the last Mazda model to be powered by a rotary engine. It followed the RX-7 which spanned across three generations from 1978 to 2002.