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Confirmed: Mazda to Bring Back Rotary Engine

Confirmed: Mazda to Bring Back Rotary Engine

Mazda has confirmed it plans to bring its famed rotary engine design back to market. Only this time the rotary will find its way under the hood of an upcoming electrified model as a range-extender.

Mazda engine boss Mitsuo Hitomi confirmed the plans to AutoCar on the sidelines of the Tokyo Motor Show. Rumors of the returned rotary engine are nearly the thing of legend in the automotive space since the last rotary engine rolled off the line back in 2012 with the RX-8. According to Hitomi, the engine makes a perfect range-extender because its quiet.

“The rotary engine isn’t particularly efficient to use as a range extender but when we turn on a rotary, it is much, much quieter compared to other manufacturers’ range-extenders,” Hitomi stated to AutoCar.

Mazda will apparently utilize the rotary range-extender in a product slated for the 2019 timeframe. Details as to which model it will be are still not known and were not discussed by the executive. Mazda showcased a rotary engine hybrid powertrain in its RX Vision Concept car, which was revealed at the Tokyo show back in 2015. Since then the company has been mum on the subject until now.

When pressed if the company was also working on a standalone rotary engine, Hitomi hinted they were. In fact, he stated “of course” they are working on a standalone, suggesting a gas-only variant of the car may be in the works as well.

In addition to the return of the rotary, Mazda engineers have also been working on producing an electrified powertrain utilizing their upcoming Skyactiv-X engine. Skyactiv-X is the company’s new compression ignition engine, which it feels will be more efficient than total electric vehicles over the entire lifecycle of the vehicle.

Now that the official confirmation of the rotary’s return is out, expect more details to be forthcoming between now and the alleged 2019 launch.


About Nick Saporito

AutoVerdict Senior Editor Nick Saporito began writing about cars at age 13. Nick ran a couple of automotive enthusiast sites for several years, before taking some time off to focus on his career and education. By day he's a marketing executive in the telecom world and by night he hangs out here at AV. You'll find him focusing on tech, design and the industry's future.
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  1. Tone
    I think this is brilliant. My understanding of rotaries is that they can be efficient at steady rpms, which is doable from a range-extender perspective. They have low NVH and are power-dense, compact and simple, meaning that they can be packaged much, much more easily than piston engines. And, I strongly suspect a lot of the reliability issues won't be a big deal when used in a range-extender duty cycle (limited rpm range).

    The two biggest issues I see (that are probably surmountable) is that rotaries really, really don't like multiple cold starts (the dreaded flooding issue). An example: I live in Canada and we frequently have to shovel snow off driveways, which means cold starting a vehicle, moving it out of the way, shovelling, then moving it back. Do that in an RX-7 or RX-8 and the engine will flood and be very, very difficult to restart. The solution? Keep'er running! Given the way a range extender gets used, that is an obvious problem that will need to be solved.

    The other issue is that rotaries use oil by design. That's proven to be a challenge even for owners of sports cars -- people don't always stay on top of oil levels. A range extender needs to be nearly as maintenance free as the rest of the drivetrain. That means asking owners to check oil levels frequently will be unacceptable. They really need a better way to keep the apex seals lubed that doesn't require oil to be injected for this application.

    Still -- would love me a fun-to-drive Mazda with effortless torque and the signature rotary. PS: Mazda: please do all of the aforementioned AND make sure the rear fenders don't rust :-) I'm getting a little to familiar with the POR15!
    As I have stated before I hope it is more reliable and doesn't need an overhaul at 70k miles.
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