Mazda's rotary engine to return as EV range extender

Mazda's rotary engine to return as EV range extender

Though 1.6 liters (two 800cc rotors) and turbocharging are a bit too much for a range-extended PHEV, Mazda might offer different variants of the SkyActiv-R for the yet-unnamed plug-in hybrid and the long-awaited RX-9.

Mazda is committed to the rotary, though whether the unique engine design is used to directly power a sports vehicle or serve as a range-extender for an electric auto remains to be seen. "I think that's probably what it will be", Hitomi revealed a technology preview in Japan.

Speaking with Automotive News (subscription required), Mitsuo Hitomi, head of powertrains at Mazda, said a rotary will "probably" do duty as a range-extender in an electric vehicle.

Japan, Europe and China will be the key target markets for the pure EV as Mazda believes these type of vehicles can get by with less range. Despite putting it on hiatus after the RX-8 ended production in 2012, the automaker has continued developing rotary-based solutions to achieve locomotion. In North America, on the other hand, the range extender is a necessity because consumers have longer daily drives, according to Kyomen. Mazda hasn't officially announced when the new electric vehicle will launch, but it's expected to arrive in 2019, in two versions.

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Please note that Kyomen did not say "rotary range extender", nor did Hitomi say "rotary range-extended hybrid in 2019".

Mazda's rotary engine is coming sooner than expected, but not powering a sports auto. That vehicle's name: RE Range Extender, short for Rotary Engine Range Extender.

The company's question, Hitomi said, has been "whether the business conditions will be met or not ... not the big technical issues". While there was a glimmer of light far off in the distance that looked a darn lot like a future of RX-VISION-inspired sports cars, it is still definitely not coming now, or even soon. A new architectural platform will be revealed by Mazda to house these two powertrain configurations.

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