Auto Tech

Mazda brings back the rotary engine... as an EV range extender

Hey, it's better than nothing. And there are good reasons for doing it.

Mazda

When Mazda stopped using the rotary engine to power its sports cars, fans of esoteric car tech the world over emitted a collective sigh. Well, now they can emit a collective gasp of excitement because the rotary is back, baby! Sort of.

Martijn ten Brink, Mazda's VP of sales and customer service in Europe, confirmed to ZerAuto.nl that it will revive its rotary engine in 2019. It will be part of the automaker's first battery-electric vehicle, which will debut that same year.

Breaking hearts and blowing apex seals since the mid-1960s.

Mazda

But wait... a gas engine in an electric car? How's that going to work? Well, fans of the rotary might be saddened to hear that it won't be used to provide any direct motive force. Rather, the rotary will come back as a gas-powered range extender for the aforementioned electric car. Brink promised that the engine would be nice and low in the vehicle, because it's only about the size of a shoebox, and it should barely be noticeable.

Not the ideal reintroduction of the rotary engine, but I'll take it. The Wankel rotary engine is a strange thing, using a single rotating element inside a chamber to create all four stages of combustion -- intake, compression, power and exhaust. Rotary engines are known for low vibration, decent fuel economy and a small physical footprint, three things that will be necessary for a range extender that mostly lives in the background.

Earlier this year, Mazda's global powertrain chief told Bloomberg that it intended to revive the rotary engine to help power Toyota's fleet of driverless electric delivery vehicles, but it hadn't really spoken to using the engine in human-driven vehicles until this most recent confirmation.

(Hat tip to Motor1!)