Instead, it'll serve as a range-extender. For an EV.
It’s been one of the worst-kept secrets for the past several years. Mazda is indeed developing a new rotary, an engine design it’s long been known for. However, Automotive News has learned that when the new rotary arrives in 2019, it won’t power a new sports car. Nor will it provide the main power source for any other segment. Instead, it’ll serve as a range-extender engine to generate electricity for a battery-powered model. Mazda’s global powertrain chief, Mitsuo Hitomi, confirmed this news and his explanation for using rotary tech in this way makes sense.
You see, a rotary engine just so happens to have the ideal design for range-extending duties; it’s compact and powerful and generations low-vibration. One of the main problems with past rotary-powered Mazdas, such as the RX-7 and RX-8, was a lack of fuel efficiency. Quite frankly, the efficiency numbers were pretty bad and there was no way Mazda could power a new car today solely with a rotary engine. But Mazda wanted to keep its rotary legacy going. As of now, Mazda’s plan is to launch a new EV in 2019, alongside a new hybrid, but it’s the latter that’ll utilize the rotary. That so far unnamed EV will be offered in two ways: as a pure EV or with the range-extender.
The EV will be more ideally suited to countries where range isn’t as important, such as Japan and Europe. North America is a different story, hence the rotary range-extender. But don’t get your hopes up for a new rotary range-extender in a sports car, at least not for 2019. Hitomi confirmed that, at the moment, there’s no business case for such a car. Instead, Mazda developed a new platform engineered for both EV and hybrid powertrains, so expect a more conventional segment, such as a sedan. However, Mazda is also working on a larger, more powerful rotary engine that will one day power a high-performance sports car slotted above the MX-5 Miata.