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.