Mazda by no means gave up on the rotary engine. Regardless of placing it on hiatus after the RX-Eight ended manufacturing in 2012, the automaker has continued growing rotary-based options to attain locomotion. There has even been a longstanding promise Wankel motor would finally return in a future sports activities automotive that may trump the MX-5 in outright efficiency. Nevertheless, Mazda by no means talked about when the world may anticipate to see one other rotary in motion.
Then Mitsuo Hitomi, Mazda’s international powertrain head, gave us a timeline to sink our enamel into. The 12 months of the Wankel can be 2019, but it surely’s not coming again the way you imagined. As a substitute of dropping it right into a high-revving efficiency automobile, Mazda thinks a rotary would make the right gas-powered vary extender for its upcoming electrical automobile.
“I feel that’s in all probability what will probably be,” Hitomi instructed Automotive Information throughout a sneak preview on the Japanese carmaker’s Japanese proving grounds.
In accordance with Hitomi, Mazda Motor Corp. feels that the rotary’s means to make gobs of energy in a small, low-vibration, bundle would make it a perfect vary extender on its first battery-powered automotive. Nevertheless it additionally serves as a nod to the corporate’s heritage and retains rotary R&D alive.
Akira Kyomen, program supervisor for automobile growth stated the brand new EV would are available in two flavors — purely electrical or outfitted with a charge-supplementing generator. Mazda’s plan is to market the fundamental EV in Europe, Japan, and China however acknowledged that North Individuals clock extra each day miles on common and would recognize one thing to alleviate vary anxiousness.
Mazda says its new EV structure, set to reach in 2019, will accommodate BEVs with or with out vary extenders — in addition to hybridized powertrains. However what of that ultra-powerful rotary-driven efficiency automobile we hold listening to about?
Whereas Hitomi confirmed that Mazda’s engineering staff has continued work on a bigger Wankel, he additionally stated the corporate needed to show there can be enough room available on the market for the automobile it will go into. The automaker doesn’t need one other sports activities automotive whether it is simply going to cannibalize Miata gross sales. Hitomi stated the corporate must assess “whether or not the enterprise circumstances can be met or not … not the massive technical points. Are we going to actually promote that many fashions of sports activities automobiles? There aren’t that many vehicle corporations promoting a number of sports activities automobiles.”
We will consider loads of producers that produce multiple performance-oriented automobile, however Mazda is true to be cautious if it isn’t going to make one thing exceedingly completely different from the MX-5. That stated, all of us assumed the following rotary-equipped efficiency mannequin to be a fire-breathing RX that may simply upstage the Miata and distinguish itself available on the market.
Nevertheless, Mazda has been exceptionally tight-lipped on its plans for the rotary whereas additionally making time to nudge journalists with fixed reminders that one thing is within the works . A lot of the rumors about Wankel engines had been launched by the automaker to start with, together with early hints that their first EV would use a rotary-based generator.
Questions stay as to how possible the powertrain even is on a contemporary efficiency mannequin although. The RX-Eight left the marketplace for two causes: dwindling gross sales and tightening emissions requirements. Mazda has stated up to now that it has been high-quality tuning the rotary so will probably be prepared each time there’s a gap for it. However the way it could make one work with out burning by way of gallons of gas or belching tons of carbon dioxide is unknown. Maybe that’s why it’s determined to concentrate on the vary extender first.
Though, Mazda’s reasoning for holding onto the rotary runs deeper than simply custom. It is aware of fans nonetheless like it and doesn’t need to quit on what it sees as a chunk of its soul, though it has been fairly wishy-washy on the rotary’s future up to now.
“The expertise of the rotary engine is one thing solely Mazda can construct,” stated Mazda’s international design chief Ikuo Maeda throughout final 12 months’s unveiling of the RX-Imaginative and prescient Idea. “If we quit, it’ll disappear, and that’s an enormous threat as engineers received’t be drawn to Mazda. [Head of R&D Kiyoshi] Fujiwara needs to construct a rotary and a sports activities automotive, and I’ve the identical feeling: a grown-up sports activities automotive that may lead our model — an icon.”
“A automotive must have character, which suggests it has to convey that conventional machine-like really feel. It should nonetheless have a mechanical high quality,” Maeda concluded.