Mazda Boss Reveals More About Rotary Range Extender

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

The rotary engine and Mazda have had a tumultuus, on-and-off relationship that rivals an Old Hollywood marriage. Market conditions and government regulations have made mass production of the rotary a constant challenge, and the death of the Mazda RX-8 looked like the final nail in the Wankel’s coffin.

It turns out that Mazda is not only reviving the rotary, but the rumors of its use as a range extender have been confirmed by Mazda head Takashi Yamanouchi, who spoke briefly at the Moscow Auto Show regarding its future.

Yamanouchi revealed that the next-generation rotary car would be a plug-in vehicle that would only be available for lease in Japan. Regarding the rotary’s use, Yamanouchi said

“The rotary has very good dynamic performance, but if you accelerate and brake a lot there are efficiency disadvantages. The range extender overcomes that. We can keep it spinning at it’s most efficient 2000rpm while also taking advantage of it’s size.”

Better a range-extending rotary than no rotary at all, right?

Derek Kreindler
Derek Kreindler

More by Derek Kreindler

Join the conversation
7 of 29 comments
  • Juniper Juniper on Aug 29, 2012

    Same old engineering compromises Cost Size Weight Efficiency Durability, etc, again, still! Oh, I forgot buttercream deliciousness :-)

  • Stuntmonkey Stuntmonkey on Aug 29, 2012

    So far, range extender applications haven't been very impressive. Once you get the Fixker or Volt onto full *parallel hybrid* mode, where the ICE engine directly powers the drive motors instead of charging a battery, the efficiency becomes very mundane. I can't see how a rotary would be any better... Sure, it would be smaller and lighter, but the key point is that in present form, the engine has a hard time harnessing all of the combustion and converting it into torque. You can get a lot of power in a small package because revs are free, but the design is essentially akin to a very short stroke Otto engine, like a sportbike engine or the S2000.... it's all about the revs, efficiency is secondary.

    • BrianL BrianL on Aug 30, 2012

      No one said that using a rotary that you would have to go into a parallel hybrid mode. The reason the Volt does it is because it is more efficient with the 4 cyl engine. If it isn't the same for the rotary engine, then it won't go into that mode. But all of this relies upon what is more efficient. Once you consider the weight savings of the engine over how often you would go into range extending mode, packaging concerns, might allow for a little bigger battery, you never know, it might make more sense to go with it. But don't assume that the rotary would be used in a parallel mode like todays ranger extenders.

  • El scotto El scotto on Aug 29, 2012

    I wan an electric Batmobile with a turbine range extender.

  • Carve Carve on Aug 29, 2012

    The advantages are that it's simple, light, and compact- perfect for a range extender. It means you're carrying around less dead weight, and can tuck it away in some corner. The disadvantages of the rotary are emissions, efficiency and reliability. Believe it or not, these don't matter much in a range extender, because the extender will seldom be used. After 100k miles, your range extender might have 15k miles on it. Design it light at the expense of reliability. And, for that few miles, efficiency isn't that big of a deal. Again- keep it light to increase your electric efficiency and decrease your battery size.

    • See 1 previous
    • Herm Herm on Aug 30, 2012

      @mkirk The engine has to be self maintaining.. anyways using it as a genset in a serial hybrid overcomes all the problems of a Wankel.. probably optimized to 60hp and 30hp in two speeds