Mazda Motor Corporation is getting set to bring the rotary engine back into production but it will be far from the fuel-guzzling, emissions-producing motor made famous in the 1970s.
In keeping with modern vehicle technology and industry emissions requirements, the Japanese car maker will revamp the rotary with a view to creating a “range extender” for a future line-up of electric and battery-powered vehicles.
A range extender is integrated to an electric vehicle’s drivetrain and used to recharge the battery on longer runs, providing up to an extra 200 kilometres of driving once the main battery runs flat.
While specific design details are yet to be confirmed, Mazda said the new-release rotary engine will be small and offer “high power output” while being compatible with an assortment of electrified powertrains.
Mazda announced this week it would bring in the rotary range extender to support its vision of incorporating electrification into all of its vehicles within the next 12 years.
As a starting point, development will commence this year on two battery-powered vehicles to be launched by 2020 – one fully-electric model and a battery-powered vehicle with range extender.
By 2030, the company plans for 95% of all internal combustion models to be accompanied by some form of electric assistance, while the remaining 5% will be made up of battery-electric hybrids.
If all goes to plan, Mazda will be well placed in the race to zero emissions alongside fellow Japanese manufacturers Toyota, Nissan and Honda, which have all committed to phasing out conventional vehicles by 2050.
The driving force behind Mazda’s electric strategy is a long-term technology development roadmap known as “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030”, which among other points of focus, aims to reduce average ‘well-to-wheel’ carbon dioxide emissions to 50% of 2010 levels by 2030, and achieve a 90% reduction by 2050.
The map moves beyond the company’s current ‘tank-to-wheel’ carbon dioxide evaluations which consider only emissions whilst driving, to a ‘life of vehicle’ method which also takes in to account fuel extraction, manufacturing and shipping.
“In light of rapid changes taking place in the automotive industry, [our] new vision takes a longer-term perspective and sets out how Mazda will use driving pleasure – the fundamental appeal of the automobile – to help solve issues facing people and the world today,” the company said in a statement last year.
Moving into the EV market
Mazda is working on breaking into the competitive EV market with the introduction of its first electric vehicle within the next 18 months.
The company previously said it would keep relying on fossil fuels, including diesel, as it waited for customer interest in EVs to pick up.
However, executive vice-president Kiyoshi Fujiwara faced the truth with reporters this month.
“It took some time to put in the latest battery technology and we revised the layout to allow us to use the technology across multiple electric vehicles, so we’re a bit behind – that is a fact,” he said.
“Delaying to 2020 is the optimal solution.”
With the anticipated future market growth and consumer acceptance of EVs, the demand for battery metals is likely to continue its upward momentum.