Mazda's Rotary Engine Finds New Life in Range-Extended Electric Cars

By Jacob Brown | December 20, 2013
Mazda has championed the rotary engine for more than 50 years, an engine that runs in a circular pattern through a chamber rather than having multiple cylinders to generate power. But, it seemed, with increasing emissions standards and a new focus on fuel economy, the Mazda rotary was all but dead when the Mazda RX-8 sports car left production a few years back. There have talks on and off to revive the rotary engine, with Mazda's 16X concept engine being the last to see the light and quickly fall back into the dark. That is, until now. Where that engine was a 1.6-liter that could have easily powered a full-size car, Mazda has come back with a 0.33-liter rotary engine in an experimental version of its Mazda2 subcompact hatchback. Producing just 26 horsepower, the new rotary isn't designed to push the car; it's designed to keep the prototype Mazda2's 20-kWh battery fed with enough juice to power its 100-horsepower electric motor. The rotary is spinning at a constant 2,000 rpm, which easily helps maximize fuel-efficiency.
Rotaries are known for their light weight and compact designs, which is why this car is able to keep its small dimensions. Like the 2014 BMW i3 with which it's very similar in concept, fuel capacity is limited to just nine liters. Full range is right around 240 miles under both gas and electric propulsion. The last question we have is: Is this a sign of things to come? According to Automotive News, the technology may never reach production. But given Mazda has taken a vested interest in the technology and this is an incredibly efficient solution, we can't see Mazda not taking a serious look at bringing it to showrooms sooner than not. Sources: Automotive News (Subscription required), Autocar