• Aug 29th 2008 at 2:40PM
  • 7
While both General Motors and Ford have shown extended range electric vehicle concepts, only the former has committed to producing such a vehicle. We have written endlessly here about the Chevrolet Volt, but now there may be a new challenger on the horizon from an unexpected corner. The Zoom-Zoom factory at Mazda may be developing an ER-EV. Unlike the Volt which uses a four-cylinder piston engine for a range extender, Mazda is reportedly planning to use a Wankel rotary. According to AutoCar, there is a running prototype in a Mazda 5 shell.
The rotary is an interesting choice for this application. Wankels produce a lot of power in a small package but typically aren't very fuel efficient. While Mazda may have a running prototype, production likely won't occur until battery costs drop.

[Source: AutoCar]


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  • 7 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      They won't really invest a lot of money in battery cars, not only because of battery cost but for other reasons too. One of the reason is they don't know where the car manufacturing business is going these day. There is a lot of new technologies( ethanol, natural gas , hcci conbustion, hybrid, 100% battery, battery with small gasoline recharger, engine downsizing, phev, etc) but they are not as efficient as hydrogen fuel. IF someone begin to sell something new it take a lot of investment to do so and nobody want to get struck one year later with a failure if something better appear on the market.

      My opinion is that the majority of the manufacturers told goverment that the best alternative to the disaster of oil-pollution-inflation-starvation was hydrogen fuel and they did contructed working prototypes without problems but they never commercialized any of these except honda because somebody is still studying hydrogen gas at doe and he have a contract for many years to come and he's supposed to find all the truth abouth it but his contract finnish in 2025 and he need time to figure out what to write in his study. So to protect a madscientist we have to pay 10 billions each day to oil until some unknown find the solution.

      Goverments are so rich that they acts as a big monopoly and any outsiders is impeded to enter the market. Every new player is bouth or eliminated from the market. They organized the food-fuel and still study how hydrogen works.
        • 7 Years Ago
        They won't have to invest as much money in prototype battery cars as in prototype H2 FC cars as batteries are a lot less expensive! In fact, automotive H2 storage tanks alone cost more than the typical LiIon EV battery.

        You got the communication backwards - it was the oil companies that persuaded the Bush jr. administration to push H2 fueled cars, as the oil companies makes H2 and want to sell that profitable new fuel when the oil runs low. The Bush jr. government then issued billions in H2 research grants to the auto companies who were willing to make a few concept cars and prototypes. Of course, they've never gone into full production as the costs are still much too high - even the Honda FCX Clarity is a limited production test prototype, with a government subsidized lease. They aren't commercialized as there simply isn't a market for million dollar cars with modest performance and severely limited refueling options, so don't blame the governmen or the "madxcientist".
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'd love to see Mazda come out with a rotary PHEV. Done right, it would fit right in with Mazda's performance image.

      However. . . Let us not forget Mazda is partly owned by Ford. Logically they would want to share any powerplant they develop with Ford and get the production volumes up. Right now Ford doesn't seem too interested in EVs of any stripe.

      • 7 Years Ago
      I think it's actually rather clever. Sacrifice a little ICE efficiency to gain more room for batteries, meaning that it's less often that the ICE needs to come on. Wankels also offer smoother, quieter operation. I'm interested in seeing what sort of specs they can get out of it.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Quite right. For range extender use, the Wankel advantages of compact size and light weight outweigh the disadvantages of slightly reduced fuel economy and greater wear, considering the greatly reduced runtime involved. A lightweight performance plug-in hybrid also fits in with the Mazda "zoom zoom" performance marketing, and they don't want to loose too many customers to Tesla Motors.
      • 7 Years Ago
      It could be a hydrogen-powered Wankel generator running an electric motor. That would simply replace the fuel cell in a fuel cell/electric car, presumably at a lower manufacturing cost, with a driving range somewhere in-between the Clarity and the hydrogen RX-8, thus tolerable.

      Now how small such a generator could be is interesting. Decades ago a German firm built tiny Wankels for radio-controlled planes; I think they put out 1 hp and weighed 10 ounces. However, the price you pay for that size is incredible heat loss due to a high surface area to volume ratio. It didn't get very good fuel economy. You could practically make a 10 kw unit fit in a lunch pail and remove it to power your house when you got home.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think the rotary engine is actually most efficient when you hold it at a constant RPM, which is exactly how it'll be used in a series hybrid. This could actually be a much better choice than you think.
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