Mazda Reaffirms Interest In Rotary Range-Extender For Electric Vehicles

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2005 Mazda RX8
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The return of Mazda's brand-defining Wankel rotary engines to the market has been a source of excitement ever since the RX-8 waved adieu in 2012. While the revival of a rotary-powered sports car is underway, the rotary engine looks slated to be used next in electric vehicles rather than a sports car, according to a report by Wards Auto, who spoke to Masahiro Moro, president and CEO of Mazda North American Operations.

“I think a rotary engine could be a generator in the near-term to contribute to electrification," said Masahiro. “Toyota announced the e-Palette. Mazda is a technical partner. That technical (partnership) means they need our rotary range-extender technology.”

The Drive reached out to Mazda for confirmation that the company's rotary range-extension technology was involved in the e-Palette autonomous electric vehicle project and for information on whether the extender would be paired with future Mazda EVs.

"This is part of our technical partnership with Toyota," a company spokesperson confirmed to The Drive, "however, we cannot confirm any future product information regarding Mazda vehicles."

Mazda first experimented with the use of a minuscule rotary engine as an onboard generator in EVs years ago when it fitted an electrified Mazda 2 with a 330cc, 26 horsepower single-rotor engine to keep juice topped off. An updated design for such a system surfaced in early 2017 when patent filings revealed a conceptual rotary range-extender equipped with start-stop technology, a critical step forward for the wasteful, flooding-prone Wankel design.

We speculate that range extenders such as this could be the perfect testbed on which Mazda could trial systems destined for use in its next rotary sports car. Even if the range extender's use of improvements on the Wankel design remains conservative, the advancements may prove enough to bring the next RX-series car to market, if only for one last time.