Reports of a possible return of the rotary engine have been going back and forth ever since Mazda discontinued the RX-8 seven years ago. The latest thing that fueled the rumors once again is a mule that was spied testing at the Nurburgring not long ago, with its front end hidden beneath vinyl stickers.
The switch can again be flicked from "The Rotary Engine is Doomed" to "The Rotary Engine Lives!" Mazda is re-tooling the once nearly forgotten rotary to work as a range extender for hybrid vehicles, with a chance for it to do even more than that. The latest information sounds rather promising for those still holding out a candle for the rotary.
Mazda's powertrain development chief, Ichiro Hirose discussed future rotary plans with the Australian Drive at the CX-30 crossover's launch. Hirose told Australia's Drive that Mazda is currently working with a very flexible and efficient rotary hybrid platform that doesn't necessarily come with the heavy emissions and fuel consumption baggage the rotary engine has earlier been saddled with.
With the return of the Toyota Supra, the Lotus Esprit and Mazda RX-7 probably share the trophy for hardcore sports cars we'd most like sequels for. The Esprit's too hopeless to consider. Mazda continues to speak in riddles about a new RX-7, but the company has confirmed that the RX-7's heart will return: The company's building a rotary-engined range-extender engine for an autonomous Toyota.
At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, Toyota announced its e-Palette autonomous electric delivery vehicle. The e-Palette will come in bus, shuttle, and car versions to service the delivery needs of companies like Amazon, Pizza Hut, and Uber. They'll also be built in custom configurations such as mobile hotel rooms and emergency command centers.
Mazda has said its rotary engine could be used as a range-extender in a future autonomous Toyota EV.
Speaking to WardsAuto in Detroit, Mazda North America’s president and CEO, Masahiro Moro, said the rotary engine has been under continuous development within Mazda. The company teamed up with Toyota on its e-Pallete concept for CES 2018, which is essentially a self-driving, fully autonomous electric mobility pod, and says the rotary could be used on a production version of the vehicle to boost its overall range.
Mazda remains intrinsically linked to the rotary engine which, according to senior executives within the company, might just make a (long awaited) comeback.
Of course, we’ve heard this all before. In fact, Mazda officials have, in the past 18 months, suggested lots of times that the rotary could return. However, the automaker has failed to commit to a new rotary-powered sports car.
Mazda has admitted that it has an engineering division currently working on a next-generation rotary engine, but there’s no definitive date for its release.
Speaking to media at the 2017 Los Angeles motor show, president and CEO of Mazda North America operations, Masahiro Moro, said the rotary fan base is huge, so a rotary is within Mazda’s future.