Mazda is committed to the rotary’s revival. That much is clear. Where we’ll see the engine end up is a completely different story, however.
It’s safe to assume that Mazda originally wanted to introduce a new rotary in a sports car. The RX-Vision concept unveiled two years ago is a clear indication of those plans.
However, senior Mazda executives on a number of occasions have made it clear that getting the rotary to meet emissions standards is proving a challenge. It’s why we recently learned that Mazda is likely to use the rotary initially as a range-extender for an electric car.
It seems rotary engines are suited to range-extender duty since they’re much quieter than conventional internal combustion engines. Mazda is expected to introduce an electric car in 2019 or 2020. It will be offered with a range-extender option, where the range-extender will be a rotary, likely a small single-rotor rotary.
Mazda RX-Vision concept, 2015 Tokyo Motor Show
The good news is that Mazda still wants the rotary sports car. The bad news is that it will likely arrive later than expected. While it was thought the rotary sports car would arrive in 2020 to mark Mazda’s centennial, Kiyoshi Fujiwara, Mazda's senior managing executive officer, told Drive the car has been pushed back due to more pressing matters taking up time and resources.
What could be more important than a rotary sports car? Fujiwara pointed to the new SkyActiv-X spark-less ignition engine and SkyActiv-Vehicle Architecture modular platform. Both were previewed this week at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show in the Mazda Kai concept and will make their debut in the next-generation Mazda 3 due in 2019.
Fujiwara also revealed to Drive that the rotary sports car will likely be offered with standard and electrified (likely a plug-in hybrid) powertrains, the latter deemed necessary for markets where emissions standards could call for a zero-emission mode for certain areas, such as in cities.
“[Environmental regulations] cannot allow for only internal combustion engine,” Fujiwara said. “Some of the cities completely ban so some electrification is needed.”