After years of teases, it appears Mazda is finally ready to reintroduce its signature rotary engine—as an EV range extender.
The rotary range extender will be used in the Japanese-market MX-30 crossover beginning in 2022, according to a Japanese-language video posted to Mazda's YouTube channel Wednesday.
First spotted by Autoblog, the video contains a brief reference to the range extender by Mazda CEO Akira Marumoto. He confirmed plans to use the range extender in the MX-30, and said testing would start later this year with a small batch of prototypes, but did not give any other details.
Still, those statements confirm something that Mazda has hinted at various times over the past three years but has avoided actually confirming in a product.
It started in 2017 with comments by then-head powertrain developer Mitsuo Hitomi, who said a rotary engine could be used as a range extender for a future electric car. Mazda had filed patents for a rotary range extender prior to that, and teased the idea with various concept and prototype vehicles.
The possibility of a new Mazda rotary engine—even as a range extender—perked up the ears of car enthusiasts. Mazda was the sole automaker to use Wankel rotary engines for decades, most prominently in its RX-7 sports car. The company hasn't made a rotary-engined car since the RX-8 ended production in the 2011 model year.
Mazda in 2018 suggested a rotary range-extender might be used in its e-Palette autonomous people-mover project, developed in partnership with Toyota.
In 2019, Mazda said that the rotary range extender was coming, but it wouldn't say in what product. Then the company's powertrain chief said that the rotary range-extender had become part of a flexible powertrain platform—which might explain why Mazda had caged earlier responses.
But at last, we have a product it's going into: The MX-30, for which there are already all-electric and mild-hybrid versions. Mazda has only confirmed the range-extended version for Japan, but the all-electric version is being sold in Europe as well.
Now the question—especially with emissions an issue in the past for rotary engines—is whether such a version will ever go on sale in the United States.