Tesla gets a lot of flak for its delays in promised technology, but the electric car company looks like a straight-A student next to Mazda which has been has been talking about reviving the rotary engine going back to the demise of the RX-8 sports car in 2012.
Mazda says it is committed to the rotary, though the automaker has flip-flopped over whether the engine will be used to power a sports car or simply serve as a range-extender for an electric car. We've seen concepts for both, and just last year a Mazda executive said the company may end up going with both options.
Now Mazda's sales chief in Europe, Martijn ten Brink, has revealed to Dutch group AutoRAI that Mazda's electric car launching in 2019 will be available with a rotary range-extender. The exec said the electric car will be based on the same underpinnings as the next-generation Mazda 3, and hinted that a crossover body style would make sense.
Mazda 2 RE Range Extender concept
We also have a few details on the rotary range-extender itself from ten Brink's interview. He said it would be a single-rotor engine without a turbocharger. He also said the compact design should take up no more space than two shoe boxes, and because of the smoothness of the rotary engine, drivers of Mazda's electric car may not even notice when the engine is operating.
Mazda has already shown an electric car with a rotary range-extender: the Mazda 2 RE Range Extender concept unveiled in 2013. Its rotary was a single-rotor 0.33-liter unit that with a full tank of gasoline could provide an additional 111 miles of range. Based on ten Brink's comments, it's likely a similar setup will feature in Mazda's electric car due next year.
Unfortunately, ten Brink didn't have anything to say on a rotary-powered sports car from Mazda. The Japanese firm has struggled with meeting emissions regulations with high-performance applications of its rotary engine. The company has also described building the business case for a sports car as another issue. Those are two major factors standing in the way of a new rotary-powered sports car.