Last week, we reported that Mazda’s rotary engine will probably make a comeback as a range extender for an electric vehicle, potentially as early as 2019. That’s not the production version of the gorgeous RX-Vision concept we wanted, but it’s probably the best we can hope for at the moment. At the Tokyo Motor Show, though, Mitsuo Hitomi, Mazda’s head of engine development, went into more detail about why a rotary engine would make a great range extender.
Speaking to Autocar, Hitomi said a lot of it has to do with how quiet electric cars are. Because they don’t make much noise, it makes sense to avoid using a loud range extender. “The rotary engine isn’t particularly efficient to use as a range extender, but when we turn on a rotary, it is much, much quieter compared to other manufacturers’ range extenders,” he said.
Hitomi also said that regardless of whether it ever goes into a production vehicle, Mazda is still working hard on a next-generation rotary engine. “Even if there isn’t a plan to have it in an actual product, of course we are developing a rotary engine alone,” Hitomi said.
As it works to find a way to bring back the rotary engine, Mazda also has to invest in other important areas, such as autonomous technology and electric vehicles. And those things are very expensive, especially for a small company like Mazda. As we heard back in September, it simply can’t justify spending a lot of money on a car like the RX-9 that’s not likely to be very profitable.
“We have twice had bad experience for rotary engines for our financial situation, therefore we have to carefully consider and carefully decide how to do that,” said Kiyoshi Fujiwara, Mazda’s head of research and development, at the time. “Some of the stakeholders and shareholders cannot allow it at this moment. If we can get more robust business structure, I can explain it, I can get approval. If it’s needed.”
From the sound of it, if we want to see another rotary-powered sports car, we all need to buy Mazda’s upcoming electric car with a rotary range extender.
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