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Mazda to Bring Back Wankel Rotary Engine as Range-Extender for Future EV

Mazda‘s famed Wankel rotary engine hasn’t been around since the demise of the Mazda RX-8 sports car in 2012. It seems that will soon change as the Japanese carmaker has confirmed that it is bringing it back, but not as the engine of an upcoming model. Instead it’ll be a range-extender for one of its future electric vehicles (EVs).

Essentially serving as an electric generator for one of its two upcoming EVs, the “small, lightweight and exceptionally quiet rotary engine” will recharge the vehicle’s battery when necessary to increase its driving range, “eliminating the range anxiety which continues to trouble a high percentage of battery EV users.”

“The rotary engine’s small size and high power output make multiple electrification technology solutions possible via a shared packaging layout,” Mazda said in its announcement. “Taking advantage of the rotary engine’s compatibility with gaseous fuels, the rotary-powered range extender is designed to also burn liquefied petroleum gas and provide a source of electricity in emergencies.”

According to the carmaker, by 2030, 95 percent of its vehicles will have an internal combustion engine “combined with some form of electrification” while the remaining five percent will be purely battery-powered electric vehicles. Mazda though remains committed to maximizing the efficiency of the internal combustion engine as demonstrated by its new SKYACTIV-X gasoline engine which combusts through compression ignition instead of the more common spark ignition.

Mazda’s desire to produce EVs though is a departure from when it introduced its SKYACTV suite of technologies to the Asian region in 2013 when it claimed that the energy efficiency of current engine technology is only at 30 percent, so instead of putting its resources in creating hybrid or electric vehicles, it looked to refine the internal combustion engine even further.

Five years later and it seems the automotive industry’s increasing acceptance of EVs has changed Mazda’s direction–even as it continued to refine the internal combustion engine further, resulting in the SKYACTIV-X–as Mazda Representative Director, President, and CEO Akira Marumoto calls it “an opportunity to create a new car culture.”

“New trends and technologies in connectivity, autonomy, sharing and electrification offer new possibilities for creating ever more attractive cars, Marumoto added. “Using new technologies based on our unique human-centered development philosophy, Mazda will, in the spirit of ‘Never Stop Challenging,’ continue to pursue the joy of driving and work to create an emotional connection with customers that rivals the strongest brands in the world.”

Wankel Rotary Engine

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