Mazda is mass producing rotary engines for the first time in over a decade

On June 21, 2012 Mazda shut down rotary engine production at its Ujina No.1 plant in Hiroshima. A day later, on June 22, the RX-8, the last production car in the world to have a rotary engine, ended production as well. There was no successor and for all the world knew the amazing pistonless technology would cease to exist. That’s why it seems particularly fitting that yesterday, on June 22, 2023, exactly 11 years after those events at the same Ujina No.1 plant, rotary engine production began anew.

Of course, there’s still no concrete evidence that an RX-8 successor is in the works. The new rotary engine is going into a version of the electric Mazda MX-30 that uses the engine as a way of recharging the batteries. Called the somewhat clunky name of MX-30 e-SkyActiv R-EV, the rotary engine does not actually power the wheels. Instead, it recharges the on-board battery pack as a range extender.

In purely electric mode the MX-30 e-SkyActiv R-EV has a 53-mile range, which is considerably less than the all-electric MX-30’s 100 miles. And if you want to reach that target you’d better not have a heavy foot. However, after that juice is used up the 830cc 74-horsepower single-rotor engine kicks in, fed by a 13-gallon gasoline tank. That can stretch the total range to over 373 miles. But if you’re traveling locally under those first 53 miles, you’ll never drink a drop of fuel.

As of now the MX-30 e-SkyActiv R-EV hasn’t been confirmed for North America, so it may still be a while before we see new rotary engine for sale on our shores. But even if it’s not the rotary sports car we wanted, we’ve argued that it’s still very much a worthy project for Mazda to pursue, as it’s an utterly peerless and unique technology that only they can lay claim to. A calling card, if you will.

Mazda has cumulatively produced over 1.99 million rotary engine vehicles. MX-30 sales have not been great, but maybe if the R-EV catches on and Mazda gets busy with some platform sharing, they can reach that 2 million mark.

In any case, it’s been a good week for products steeped in Japan’s rich automotive heritage. In addition to the rotary engine, there was the AE86-inspired GR86 Trueno Edition and the surprise reveal of the nose-jobbed Nissan Z NISMO. Maybe Honda can bring back the CRX next.

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5 Responses to Mazda is mass producing rotary engines for the first time in over a decade

  1. speedie says:

    Engineering Explained did a great video of how the single rotor works in the MX-30. Mazda once again performed some pretty neat engineering to match the rotary to the generator.

  2. speedie says:

    Forgot to put in the link

  3. Jeff says:

    If it’s like the Chevy Volt I own, you will still burn some gas even if you stay within the 53-mile all-electric range at all times. The vehicle automatically runs in hybrid mode if the outside temperature is below 32F. The vehicle automatically runs in hybrid mode about every month for a few miles for “engine maintenance”. If you haven’t refueled in a year, the vehicle automatically runs in hybrid mode to empty the tank of the stale fuel. There are good reasons why GM incorporated these behaviors and I imagine Mazda has done something similar. “You’ll never drink a drop of fuel” is probably not accurate.

    The rotary engine in this application is compact and lightweight, which is good for a range extender for sure. It will be interesting to see if the new technologies mentioned in the video translate into improved fuel efficiency and emissions performance compared with previous iterations of the rotary engine.

  4. Jim Daniels says:

    I have some photos of the Mt Shasta Roadster show if you are interested.

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