NEWS: The return of Mazda’s rotary engine

It’s official, Mazda’s rotary engine is making a comeback, but perhaps not in the way sports car enthusiasts hope. Rather than powerful, turbocharged powerplants in a new RX car, the new rotary will serve as range extenders on a fleet of self-driving electric vehicles that Mazda and Toyota are co-developing together. 

News of the rotary’s return comes straight from the president of Mazda North American Operations Masahiro Moro. “This is a very suitable engine to run a generator because it’s compact and lightweight, with no noise or vibration, and it has very good fuel economy,’’ he said during the Automotive News World Congress industry conference in Detroit last week.

With fewer parts than traditional engines and a compact footprint, the rotary will rotary engine will allow for customizable options for Toyota’s e-Palette autonomous vehicle. Co-developed with Toyota, Mazda, Denso and Amazon, they can serve as everything from mobile stores to hotels to delivery trucks.

While the application isn’t the return that rotorheads have been waiting for since the RX-8 ended production in 2012, this at least provides some hope that the technology Mazda developed 50 years ago will continue in some form.

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11 Responses to NEWS: The return of Mazda’s rotary engine

  1. Alan said:

    This is good news. Great news even. I’ll still hold out for a new Wankel sports car from Mazda, but I won’t hold my breath.

    Also, Mazda (hello Jacob), if you build a cool little hybrid like the 2 or similar with a rotary, I’ll buy one, and up to this point I’ve never considered owing a car with batteries.

    One thing: “excellent fuel economy”? Well, maybe if they’re not being red-lined all the time like mine 🙂

    • madis said:

      city driving is the worst 😀 25 liters per 100km, outside of town 20 liters, and 120km/h with cruise control at highway it takes like 13-14
      6 port turbo

      • Christian said:

        They have relatively poor fuel economy as a straight up vehicle engine (I’m talking like they were used in the RX series cars as the main powerplant, lots of variable rpm operation, etc) but if you can run a rotary at a very constant rpm it is actually very fuel efficient 🙂

      • Aaron Dewey said:

        One of your problems is the turbo. My 88 na Rx7 could get up to 26-27 miles per gallon on the highway. Even my heavily modified na 12a in my 85 gets almost 20 mpg highway.

  2. Iwakuni91 said:

    Anything that keeps the rotary in use, a Mazda rotary no less, is a good thing. I remember when Daimler bought out Chrysler and they commented on how Daimler had to “reteach” the Chrysler boys the finer points of rear wheel drive vehicles because of the lack of rear wheel drive car producs in their portfolio. If this keeps Mazda actively engaged in fine tuning the rotary and makes it cheaper through economy of scale then I’m all for it. A rotary RX Vision will only not be a matter of time…

  3. ken said:

    I used race off road buggies with these engine, 12A’s mostly. My rig was made of exhaust tube with a Volkswagon front and rear suspension and standard 4 speed VW gearbox. The exhaust was two 2 inch pipes straight into a small resonator, the entire thing was only 600 mm long. I can remember screaming along the beach at night with 3 metre green, blue and yellow flames coming out of the exhaust. At 140 kmh the front end would lift clean off the ground so it was suicide to go any faster but the scream of that rotary engine was so addictive i would often push it up there.
    Ken Graham.

  4. j_c said:

    wishful thinking: Imagine an electric driven LMP1 that screamed the rotary howl except no fireball or pause for shifting. I just may get sick of that.

  5. Randy said:

    I was kind of thinking along those lines… It’s not “powering a vehicle;” it’s running a generator. Dunno if that’s a difference in legal terms, but if so, it’s a nice workaround.

    Kinda like the BRAT; “it’s not a truck; it has seats in the back, with a LOT of head-and-legroom.”

  6. Dutch 1960 said:

    If the engine is in production and out in the world, I have confidence that people will make something interesting out of them.

  7. Ron said:

    If it is powering a generator it is most likely going yo be relatively small…gocart anyone?

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