Every story dealing with a new rotary engine from Mazda lands in a different place on the matrix of possibilities between "Coming soon!" and "Never gonna happen!" In 2011 it was speculated that the rotary engineering program would be shut down with the demise of the RX-8, in 2012 the program was still alive and taking lessons from the SkyActiv engines, in August 2013 a Mazda insider said a rotary engine called 16X would be here in two years, in November the CEO said the only way we'd ever get a new rotary is if Mazda could sell 100,000 of them per year. Meaning that, for the moment, you can forget about it.

And yet, last month Mazda was putting journalists in a Mazda2 RE Range Extender, an electric car using a 0.33-liter rotary to power its lithium-ion batteries when the charge runs down. With a 75-kilowatt, 100-horsepower electric motor turning the front wheels, the Wankel generator and its 2.6-gallon gas tank living under the trunk double the range of the electric-only Mazda2 to 250 miles.

There's been talk of using a rotary to assist an alt-fuel vehicle for at least seven years, with Mazda pairing an electric motor with a rotary that ran on gas and hydrogen in a Mazda5 in 2007. Since then, almost all of those stories debating its return or demise also spoke of the oddball motor's advantages, such as compact size and ability to run on various fuels, as an aid in an unconventional powertrain.

Its development was said to be born from dissatisfaction of 70 percent of Mazda2 BEV owners in Japan who said they weren't happy with the 124-mile range of their electric car even though they never needed more; however, such a car was hinted at by the previous Mazda CEO at the 2012 Moscow Motor Show. AOL UK drove the range extended version in November and found it to be a fine experience, with Mazda engineers at the event putting such technology at least three years out while stressing that the test car is just that, and not scheduled for production.


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  • 38 Comments
      ijardine
      • 1 Year Ago
      The rotary engine is highly fuel efficient when run at say 3K revs. Those that say otherwise do not fully understand that when using a rotary to it's full capacity and rev range the efficiency in terms of fuel consumption drops. Not so at a relatively slow and consistent 3K rev speed. Combine this efficiency which low weight, small size and low cost to build and maintain the rotary is a hands down winner in a hybrid car.
        graphikzking
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ijardine
        Exactly.. just like a turbine engine is used in aircraft because at a constant "rpm" they are extremely efficient but at variable rpms piston engines are usually more efficient. Mazda - umm.. if it's as efficient, or more efficient, why not produce thousands of the engines in .33 liter or .5 liter for generators? Then put the rest into cars that need extended range like this Mazda2 :) These engines are much liter and smaller than a standard 4 cylinder engine so it works great in a hybrid.
      Nozuka
      • 1 Year Ago
      A rotary is actually one of the most efficient engines IF it always runs at the optimal RPM.
      Schwy
      • 1 Year Ago
      Yes, please
      CoolWaters
      • 1 Year Ago
      A 100 hp in Electric Motor R2 should be a BLAST to drive. When are they going to start selling?
        CoolWaters
        • 1 Year Ago
        @CoolWaters
        Three Years out? That gives Toyota enough time to catch up, sadly.
      BipDBo
      • 1 Year Ago
      They're obviously keeping the rotary around for more than just fun experiments. It may be that the rotary, for more reasons than being compact, is well suited as a generator / range extender. Normal piston engines can run pretty well at a wide range of rpms and power output. I would bet, that like a turbine, the rotary can be optimized to run at a single rpm and power output, and run that way fairly efficiently, for a long time with minimal wear. It may just be the perfect engine, waiting for its application to catch up with it.
      Cyrus Brooks
      • 1 Year Ago
      Mazda has always marched to the beat if its on drum. I'm not a fan of hybrids but I'd be willing to give the Mazda 2 RE hybrid a shot. I find it to be technologically interesting.
      Willy
      • 1 Year Ago
      Mazda you're pulling my heartstrings! Yes the Wankel do have disadvantages, but it has its advantages too. You can say the same with piston engines and battery powered cars as well. Anywho,I do see perhaps a small single-rotor pairing w a electric hybrid be feasible.
      Marcopolo
      • 1 Year Ago
      Mazda may be about to add an interesting new vehicle to it's range. Small rotary engine, used to recharge a battery as a range extender, is the perfect role for the Wankel design. The most significant fact that Mazda discovered in it's trail models, is the complaint that range is a major issue preventing EV adoption. ABG EV enthusiasts, always seem to dismiss this factor, and claim that since "70 miles " is all people need, it's some kind of conspiracy by car-makers. The belief that if Mazda manufactured 100,000 EV's a year, they would sell all they could make. A Mazda EREV would be a very useful addition to the growing pantheon of vehicles equipped with EV technology.
      VinnieL
      • 1 Year Ago
      As a self proclaimed rotorhead and a Mazda2 owner I love this. Keep up the r&d Mazda and keep the rotary alive!
      Lachmund
      • 1 Year Ago
      i always thought audi was stupid for not developing this idea further
      2 wheeled menace
      • 1 Year Ago
      It would suck if that range extender engine ever kicked in. All rotaries ever put in production cars have been fuel hogs with poor emissions compared to their piston engine equivalents. An RX-8 rotary motor has performance in line with a low end V6 but sucks down gasoline like a large v8 car.. requires oil to be replaced continually because it burns oil by design.. why exactly would such a low efficiency engine be used in a range extended electric car again? Isn't the idea of an electric car to have high torque, low emissions, and low cost of operation? when a rotary engine kicks on, you've just negated all of that and you have something that is running dirtier than an ordinary piston engined car.
        Kevin Gregerson
        • 1 Year Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        You are off a little bit here. The Rotary is actually a very efficient engine, when it's run at the right RPM. The problem with using it as the primary engine was that it was rarely running at the most efficient rpm of around 2000rpms. If they ever tied it to a CVT they would have gotten a lot better gas mileage out of it. Also, a Rotary runs a lot smoother so you can barely feel it running when it is, and the fact that it's so much smaller means that they could squeeze it into 1/3rd to 1/4th the space of a standard piston engine and still get the same amount of power.
          2 wheeled menace
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Kevin Gregerson
          2000rpm will provide you a very low power output per displacement though, so you would need to upsize the engine. A mazda rx-8 runs at about 3000rpm in the highest gear on the highway. That's not overly high for the low amount of torque it makes at such an RPM. If you tie a CVT to a gasoline engine, you get better fuel economy out of it too.
        John Burns
        • 11 Months Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        You need to understand the Wankle and where is excels.
      groingo
      • 1 Year Ago
      A Gas turbine also can run on multiple fuels and is very compact as well with only one moving part plus it produces useable heat and has been used for nearly 20 years in just such applications, Mazda needs to get out more.
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