Sorry, folks - no new RX sports car just yet

Mazda is finally resuscitating the rotary engine, but not in the way that the fans would have hoped. The Wankel will be used as a range extender for one of Mazda’s upcoming EVs which are part of its ’Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030’ program.

It’s been three years since Mazda unveiled the stunningly-beautiful RX-Vision concept at the Tokyo Auto Show and we’ve been dreaming of a rotary resurgence ever since. Now, finally, it’s going to happen. Mazda will launch its first two EVs soon, the first as early as 2019, and one of them will have a Wankel engine which will act as a range extender. The other new car, however, will be the first true EV built by Mazda.

Keep reading to find out why Mazda brought the rotary back

Why it matters

Mazda Confirms the Rebirth of the Rotary Engine but Only as a Range Extender Spyshots Exterior
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Mazda wasn’t the first manufacturer to put a rotary engine into a mass-produced car. That acclaim goes to German manufacturer NSU whose Ro80 model debuted in 1967. Mazda followed up with the L10 Cosmo a few months later and stuck with the technology, constantly fettling with it and improving it until 2013 when the production cycle of the RX-8 ended. That’s precisely when fans asked for a new rotary-powered car from Mazda, but the Japanese manufacturer seems to have found a better use for Felix Wankel’s creation than to power a gas-guzzling sports car.

"The rotary engine’s small size and high power output make multiple electrification technology solutions possible via a shared packaging layout," was pointed out in a statement released by Mazda.

The Japanese manufacturer also said that the rotary was a natural choice due to it being "exceptionally quiet."

Yes, all of you who’ve heard Mazda’s Le Mans-winning 787B Group C prototype, a ’70s Savanna RX-3 or a more modern RX-7 will ask yourselves what’s that all about. It’s just another facet of the rotary.

In any case, Mazda’s new EVs will be small city cars, Autocar saying that, most likely, the fully-electric model will challenge the Renault ZOE. This is all part of Mazda’s ambitious ’Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030’ programme which aims to have 95% of Mazda’s lineup made up of hybrids with the other 5% being EVs. This mission will also be tackled by introducing a series of hybrid models from 2021. Mazda is already selling a hybrid variant of the 3 in Japan, borrowing tech from Toyota.

Mazda Confirms the Rebirth of the Rotary Engine but Only as a Range Extender Spyshots Exterior
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The manufacturer from Fuchū also set up bold plans to reduce CO2 emissions, the same statement reading that "Mazda is committed to reducing its corporate average ’Well-to-Wheel’ CO2 emissions to 50% of 2010 levels by 2030, and to 90% by 2050." But Mazda won’t give up on the ICE just yet, instead looking at ways to make it emission-free.

The Japanese are experimenting with recyclable liquid fuels such as biofuels from microalgae growth which is being studied in joint projects with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Hiroshima University.

All that is great news for the automotive industry as a whole, but will the return of the Wankel coupled with projected reductions in CO2 emissions for "old-school" engines mean the return of an RX sports car? Mazda’s statement ends in an encouraging way saying that the manufacturer "will also be exploiting the advantages of electric drive in combination with the company’s proprietary technologies to produce EVs that not only comply with ever-tightening environmental restrictions but also fulfill its ongoing commitment to Hashiru Yorokobi -the ’exhilaration of driving’."

Further reading

Mazda Confirms the Rebirth of the Rotary Engine but Only as a Range Extender High Resolution Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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Read our full speculative review on the 2018 Mazda RX-7.

2016 Mazda RX-VISION Concept High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2016 Mazda RX-VISION Concept.

2010 - 2011 Mazda RX-8
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Read our full review on the 2011 Mazda RX-8.

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