Rumormill: Mazda testing Chevy Volt competitor

The Chevy Volt is unique in that its engine is really just a generator that produces electricity for the batteries, which then power an electric motor that turns the front wheels for propulsion. While the Volt powertrain is pretty spectacular, it may not be unique for long. British car site AutoCar is reporting that Mazda is not only interested in a similar setup for a future plug-in hybrid, but it already has a working prototype on the road. Mazda engineers told AutoCar that a battery pack charged by a rotary engine is already being used in a Mazda5 mule, and that management is encouraged by the early results but wants to see battery costs go down before proceeding.
If Mazda is working on a series hybrid like the Chevy Volt, that means its owner, Ford, would have direct access to the same technology. We do, however, find it odd that Mazda would use a rotary engine in this setup. While the Wankel engine is very compact and light, it's not very efficient and sucks oil, at least in the RX-8. When it comes to plug-in hybrids, though, we're with AutoblogGreen in saying the more the merrier.

[Source: AutoCar]

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