Mazda reviving rotary engine as range-extender

Fans rejoice as marque's much-loved engine is back from the grave

02 October 2018 - 20:20 By Michael Taylor
A rotary engine
A rotary engine
Image: Mazda

Paris motor show: Japanese independent carmaker Mazda is reviving the engine that made it famous – but not in the way anybody is used to.

The rotary engine is on its way back as a range-extender for a new plug-in hybrid powertrain as plans to spread electrification to its entire lineup no later than 2030.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that where BMW, the Volkswagen Group and Mercedes-Benz are all projecting between 15 and 25 percent battery-electric (BEV) or range-extender (REX) sales by 2025, Mazda is planning on only a five-percent split of both BEV and REX five years later.

By 2030, it hopes to have 95 percent of its lineup powered by internal combustion engines paired with mild hybrid or full hybrid boosting.

"We've seen drastic changes in automotive-related environmental policies all over the world," Mazda CEO Akira Marumoto said today.

“We at Mazda are keeping an eye on what is going on in the industry as we move forward with our strategy."

The return of the rotary engine that powered brand icons like the RX-7 and won the Le Mans 24 Hour race as a four-rotor beast probably won’t fill its fan base with joy.

It won’t be the main powerplant, but will serve as a constant-rev generator to extend the range of Mazda’s electric cars.

Mazda insists the engine suits the role because of its compact size and smooth revving, and it’s not the only one who thinks so.

Audi’s first range-extender concept arrived with an Austrian-built rotary motor delivering the power, even though the BMW i3 range extender uses a modified scooter engine instead.