The Moscow Motor Show may be hotter than we previously though. Right on the heels of the debut of the next Mazda6, the Japanese automaker has revealed that it will continue to develop rotary engines and is also working on a range-extended vehicle.
When word came that the RX-8 would drive off to the big salvage yard in the sky, it was feared that it would spell the end for the stupendously high-revving mill, but Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi stated that the company will "continue to explore ways to improve the fuel efficiency and capabilities of the rotary engine so it can be the primary source of power again." That sounds very promising, coming form Yamanouchi, who said that interest in the rotary motivated his decision to come work for the automaker in 1967.
Part of the equation to maximize the potential of the rotary is to incorporate range-extending technology. Sure, Mazda's rotary engines loves to play with its RPMs in the stratosphere, the company knows this mill is most efficient at about 2000 rpm. Starting and stopping require a good amount of energy to change the momentum of the Reuleaux triangle-shaped rotor. Range extenders would keep the rotor spinning at that ideal 2000 rpm while idling.
Rotary fans will hopefully rejoice at the idea of the Wankel mill continuing on for some time. Anyone worried about the engine's fate will appreciate word that as long as Yamanouchi works for Mazda, research into the uses of the rotary will continue.