We’ve known for a while that Mazda was planning to reinvent the rotary engine
as a range-extender for an electric car, but now the automaker’s CEO has confirmed the plans. Speaking with reporters at this week’s 2012 Moscow Auto Show
, Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi reaffirmed his company’s commitment to the rotary engine and said there were plans to launch an extended-range vehicle with a rotary engine as early as next year.
Mazda’s last car to be fitted with a rotary engine was the RX-8 sports car, which ended production earlier this year. The RX-8 used its rotary engine to power its wheels, though this proved to be a rather inefficient form of propulsion.
For its return, the rotary will be used solely to charge a battery, which will then power an electric motor driving the wheels of whichever car it is fitted to. There have been reports that Mazda was testing a rotary extended-range vehicle that ran on hydrogen
, though any production version is likely to use regular gasoline.
Rotaries, like most internal combustion engines, are most efficient when they maintain a steady rpm level. Acting as a range extender would allow the engine to operate at a constant rpm.
“The rotary has very good dynamic performance, but if you accelerate and brake a lot there are efficiency disadvantages,” Yamanouchi explained to Autocar
. “The range extender overcomes that. We can keep it spinning at its most efficient 2,000 rpm while also taking advantage of its [compact] size.”
It’s not clear yet what type of vehicle Mazda will launch its new rotary extended-range drivetrain in.
Note, Mazda wasn’t the first to proceed down the rotary extended-range development path. Instead, it was Audi that showed the rotary-packing A1 e-tron concept
at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show. That allegedly led to talks between Audi and Mazda
, and rumors that Mazda was developing a special-purpose rotary engine for the Audi A1 e-tron. While Audi chose to forgo a rotary for its eventual road-going A1 e-tron
, it appears Mazda won't doing the same.
Stay tuned for an update.