Mazda is practically synonymous with the rotary engine. Also known as thr Wankel engine, the folks from Hiroshima first used it in the '60s with the Cosmo sports car. Other car manufacturers dabbled with the quirky engine, namely Citroen, Chevrolet, NSU, and even Mercedes-Benz. However, it was Mazda that stuck with the technology the longest, stopping its use in 2012 following the discontinuation of the RX-8.
But Mazda just can't let go of the rotary, and it's back after a decade hiatus. It's not in a sports car this time around, though. Instead, Mazda's put it in a crossover. Wait, what?
(Electric) Rotary revival
Mazda has put in a rotary in the MX-30 electric crossover. But hold on, why does an EV need an engine? We'll explain.
The rotary used in the MX-30 is more of a range extender than actual engine. The engine acts as a generator to keep the batteries topped up for as long as possible. Think of it as something similar to the Nissan Kicks e-Power.
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Mazda says the range extender combines the best of both combustion engines and electric motors. For starters, the addition of the rotary helps give the MX-30 a range of up to 400 kilometers. Without it, the MX-30 can only do 160 to 200 kilometers on a single charge.
As for performance, the MX-30's electric motor is good for 143 hp and 200 Nm of torque. It powers the front wheels and it's good enough to propel the crossover to 100 km/h in 9.7 seconds. Sure, it's no Tesla, but that's not the point of the MX-30.
Why did Mazda choose rotary for its range extender?
As mentioned, Mazda is synononymous with rotary engines, but there's more to it than sentimental reasons. According to the manufacturer, a rotary extender is lighter and more compact than having a traditional engine for a generator. They added that the rotary will offer a smoother operation as there are less moving parts compared to a piston engine.
Sooo does this mean we'll have a rotary sports car soon?
Hold your horses. Just because the rotary is back, it doesn't mean that Mazda is rushing to build a successor to the RX-7 (or RX-8). For now, there is no plan (or plans) for the brand to build another sports car aside from the MX-5.