Mazda may not have invented the rotary engine, nor was it the first to build the car with such an engine, but the Japanese automaker is best known for vehicles with these internal-triangle mills. Mazda's rotary engines, however, are comparatively small versus Wankel's original design, yet quite powerful such that fuel efficiency is often compromised. Still, for those seeking performance in their vehicles, this early type of internal combustion engine might have a lot of appeals.
This year marks Mazda's 100th-year milestone, and at the same time, it is celebrating 50-plus years of rotary evolution, with its rotary engine debuting in 1967 in the Mazda Cosmo Sport. The last known Mazda car to flaunt this engine type was the RX range of sports cars, with the Mazda RX-8 being in production until 2012.
Being the only car manufacturer that actually had good success with this type of engine, no one can blame Mazda for feeling a bit nostalgic about the rotary engine especially since it has been producing cars for a century now. It's not a surprise then when the company confirmed it is indeed reviving and mass-producing the rotary engine. This time, however, it will be powering a compact SUV and will be eco-friendly.
Revealed at last year's Tokyo Motor Show, the Mazda MX-30 is the automaker's first pure electric vehicle (EV), which was reported to spawn hybrid variants, one of which will be fitted with a rotary engine to serve as a range extender. According to Mazda, the rotary engine makes for an ideal range extender because it is exceptionally compact, lightweight, quiet and does not vibrate. It is a perfect fit for a plug-in hybrid system as it can helping maximize efficiency.
During the MX-30's unveiling at the motor show, Tomiko Takeuchi, the program manager for the EV MX-30, had hinted at the use of a range extender. "The technology development is under way [for a range extender hybrid]" he reportedly said.
As an extender, the rotary engine acts as a generator for charging the MX-30's e-SKYACTIV, Mazda's 35.5-kWh lithium-ion battery-driven powertrain. Without an extender, the SUV can reach a range of about 209km, but once fitted with Mazda's rotary engine, the range would be twice as much – just perfect and quite impressive for an electric SUV.
This innovation gives a clear indication that Mazda is not simply letting go of the rotary engine and is still continuing its rotary evolution, and with the future direction of automobiles seemingly headed toward an all-electric platform, it is quite genius for Mazda to have identified clearly to revive this technology.
There's no precise date yet announced regarding the sale date of the fully-electric Mazda MX-30. It is assumed to be part of the 2021 Mazda cars lineup, so it might arrive late 2020 or early 2021 if there would be no production delays due to the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic crisis.