And it has a fancy new name.
One thing is for certain: a purely rotary-powered Mazda sports car is not happening. Fuel efficiency, or lack thereof, is the reason why. However, Mazda engineers have continued to develop rotary tech and, as we previously learned, may have found a new use for it as a power generator, aka a range extender for a hybrid powertrain.
According to Australian publication Drive.au, Mazda executive Ichiro Hirose, head of powertrain development, said the automaker has built a flexible rotary hybrid platform with excellent fuel efficiency that could meet the emissions standards set for nearly any global market, even in California where regulations are particularly strict.
Hirose also said Mazda was considering the name ‘XEV’ for this rotary-hybrid setup. "We made an announcement that we are considering the combination of the rotary-based range extender and combined that with battery EV,” he said. "What that entails is not simply a combined solution you’d find normally but it falls under what we call an umbrella term ‘XEV’, and what that means is that of course the range extender and the rotary engine has two functions. It has the generator function and also it can be used to provide the drive force to give you traction.”
The reason why the rotary engine is ideally suited for this purpose is its compact size that allows Mazda to easily fit all necessary components – generator, rotary engine, and electric motor – all in one driveline.
This XEV drivetrain essentially allows for any vehicle to function either as a battery EV coupled with a small charger, or as a plug-in hybrid. Pretty clever.
"What we intend to do is that with this combination you can vary the amount of battery and also the amount of fuel tank supply," Hirose added. "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 plug-in hybrid. If you reduce the other way around it could be a pure battery-electric, using really the rotary engine as a range extender and, according to the balance, you can even provide something akin to the series hybrid that is providing the drive force.”
So, will Mazda apply the XEV rotary setup to a new RX sports car, say an RX-9? Hard to say, but we'd expect to see XEV appear in something more mainstream first.