Mazda hasn’t been shy about tinkering on a new rotary engine — it’s just a matter of nailing down where they’ll put it to work. The idea of a rotary engine as a range-extender has been surfaced before, but Ichiro Hirose, the managing executive officer of Mazda’s powertrain developments, sat down with Drive and revealed that the new Wankel engine would probably land in a hybrid (though he left the possibilities open-ended).
“With this combination you can vary the amount of battery and also the amount of fuel tank supply. What that allows us to do is, depending on the ratio between the two, is that we can have a derivative that can work more like a plugin hybrid.” Hirose goes on to say, “So, we are looking at a wider coverage and scope. Based on this architecture, it allows us to do that, to explore the huge range of applications we can have with the rotary.” While a hybrid makes the most sense, other Asian manufacturers are pushing to add more excitement to their lineups, and with its reputation as an everyman’s performance brand, it’s difficult to picture Mazda not joining the fray.
The MX-5 is an undeniable icon, but it won’t win the fight to stay out of the Toyota Supra’s shadow. For a company like Mazda, however, it’ll take some justification to build a more expensive (and, let’s face it, a more impractical) sports car, so any architecture or engineering needs to be multi-purpose. Hirose continued, “If we were to introduce it in the US we would be able to comply with the strictest of regulations,” which hints that the engine is closer to reality than Mazda is letting on. The logical endgame for the engine is a hybrid, without a doubt, but if Mazda doesn’t seize this as an opportunity to revive the RX-7 or bring the RX Vision (pictured above) to life, they’re already admitting defeat.
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