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Rotary Engine May Return, but Not in the Way Gearheads Want

(Credit: © Mazda)

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Rotary Engine May Return, but Not in the Way Gearheads Want

Mazda made the rotary engine famous in its Cosmo Sport of the 1960s and its popularity grew with the RX-7 and RX-8 sports cars. Sadly, the RX-8 died a lonely death due to lagging sales, and the rotary engine died with it.

Now, a new report from Automotive News claims the rotary engine could make a comeback, but not in the way RX fans are hoping. According to the report, it will be a range extender in a plug-in hybrid model.

While many may refuse to admit the rotary engine would be relegated to such a role, this report comes straight from the mouth of Mitsuo Hitomi, global powertrain head for Mazda. Auto News caught Hitomi on the sidelines of a Mazda technology preview where he said he thinks “that’s probably what it’ll be” when asked if the rotary will act as a generator in a battery-powered vehicle.

While this isn’t complete confirmation, it’s quite strong. It also makes perfect sense, given the rotary engine’s ability to create great power from a relatively tiny block. It’s low-vibration tendencies also play well in the hybrid world.

There’s very little information on Mazda’s plan for this battery-powered vehicle, but we do know that it could debut as early as 2019. We also know that this hybrid will have an all-electric sibling, but that model will only be available in Japan, Europe, and China.

Hitomi did go on to mention that Mazda is working on a larger rotary engine that could power a sports car, like the RX-Vision above, but nothing is set in stone yet.

Stay tuned for updates.

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