Return of the rotary: Mazda to revive legendary engine as EV range-extender

The rotary engine is coming back, albeit minus any ‘brap brap’ sound effects. Instead, it’ll be hooked up to future Mazda hybrids as a range-extender

Mazda Rotary

Rotary fans, rejoice! The hallowed engine format will return within two years, albeit with a twist. Rotaries will reappear as range-extenders for electric Mazdas. The first will be launched in 2020.

Return of the rotary

Sadly, it does sound like the days of rowing a lightweight, rotary-powered sports car through the gears are behind us. The new Mazdas will feature a rotary engine that’s effectively a generator, boosting driving range and topping up the batteries.

Although we don’t yet know what kind of car the rotary will be installed in, let’s hope a sports car is among the models Mazda is considering.

It’s actually a genius idea on Mazda’s part. To use a petrol engine as a range-extender is, traditionally, quite inefficient. Conventional petrol units are often relatively large and heavy, whereas the Mazda rotary has always been lightweight and compact.

We’re in no doubt the engine fitted to the 2020 model will be optimised for ‘generator’ duties, too. And that includes the capability of using renewable LPG as an alternative fuel.

‘Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030’

Mazda Rotary

We say ‘renewable LPG’, as Mazda continues research into synthesising combustible fuels: specifically, renewable and recyclable biofuels from the growth of micro-algae.

This is all a part of Mazda’s ‘Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030’ strategy. Not a slick name, we admit, but the figures and the goals are there. Mazda expects that some form of electrification will feature in 95 percent of cars it sells in 2030. Well-to-wheel CO2 emissions are targeted as being half those in 2010 by 2030, and one-tenth by 2050. 

The road to achieving those targets starts in 2020. New EVs and the implementation of radical new internal combustion technologies, like Mazda’s spark-less Skyactiv-X engines and alternative fuels, should get the job done.

Mazda wants to push ahead with hybrids in a way we haven’t yet seen – reviving a legendary power unit and using an unpopular fuel. It’s also dedicated to the longevity of the internal combustion engine and, encouragingly, to ‘the exhilaration of driving’. The future could be exciting after all.

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Ethan Jupp
I'm Content Editor at MR. Road trips music and movies are my vices. Perennially stuck between French hot hatches and Australian muscle cars.

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