The last Mazda to feature a rotary engine was the RX-8, which went out of production in 2008
The Mazda RX-Vision (right), shown at Tokyo in 2015, featured rotary technology – as first seen on the Cosmo, which was launched at Tokyo in 1963
Mazda will bring back its famed rotary engine as a range extender because it is “much, much quieter” than the alternatives, according to the car maker’s engine boss Mitsuo Hitomi.
The Japanese firm’s range hasn’t featured a rotary-engined road car since the RX-8 went out of production in 2012 but it did produce a prototype Mazda 2 featuring the tech back in 2013, which Autocar drove. It has remained interested in reintroducing the technology to production since. Mazda’s RX-Vision Concept, which was shown at the Tokyo motor show in 2015, used such a powertrain.
However, Hitomi has now confirmed that, rather than being used in its purest form, a rotary engine will appear in a range extender version of its first electric vehicle due in 2019.
When asked at the Tokyo motor show if Mazda was developing a standalone rotary engine, Hitomi said: “Even if there isn’t a plan to have it in an actual product, of course we are developing a rotary engine alone.” He strongly hinted that a rotary engine-powered model is likely to exist alongside the range extender in the future.
Asked why Mazda will use a rotary engine as a range extender, Hitomi said “the rotary engine isn’t particularly efficient to use as a range extender but when we turn on a rotary, it is much, much quieter compared to other manufacturers’ range-extenders”, which is seemingly suited to the near silence of electric cars.
Mazda's recent engine focus has been on the development of compression ignition Skyactiv-X petrol engines, which the firm believes can be as clean as an electric powertrain over a car's whole lifespan. It has also been working on electrified versions of that powertrain.
Mazda’s first rotary-engined car was the Cosmo grand tourer, which was shown at the Tokyo motor show in 1963 and went into production in 1967. The company developed a Wankel rotary engine with the help of a German firm called NSU. Rotary engines, which use rotors instead of pistons, are generally smaller and lighter than traditional petrol engines, without any loss of power.
Since the RX-8 ended production, the firm’s only machines to feature a rotary engine have been the race cars in the American Pro Mazda junior single-seater series.