I think it is fair to say that mankind is not a fan of change, hence why the status quo still reigns supreme. It’s also the reason that Mazda’s rotary engine never became more than a niche motor, one that I thought would be buried with the outgoing RX-8. But according to reports out of Japan, Mazda’s range extender could live on as a hydrogen-powered range extender for electric cars. Whaaa??
On paper, the rotary engine is fine concept that weighs less and runs smoother, but in practice rotary engines had little to recommend them over a similar piston-style engine. Mazda has made numerous attempts to sell rotary-powered cars with mixed success. It’s latest effort, the Mazda RX-8, was a decent sports car but one that never gained more than a niche following. After this year, Mazda will stop selling the RX-8, and (I assumed) the Wankel rotary engine along with it.
But The Truth About Cars reports (via the Japanese newspaper the Nikkei) that Mazda has other plans for its rotary engines. Mazda’s rotary engines could see use as hydrogen-powered range extenders for future electric cars. Mazda has dabbled in hydrogen-rotary technology already, leasing a limited number of hydrogen-powered RX-8’s since 2006.
Turning the rotary engine into a range-extender is an idea that has been floating around Mazda for at least a couple of years, because that might play to the rotary’s strengths. Namely, its compact size, lightweight, and improved cooling systems could make it a very good option as a range extender. Mazda could start leasing such a double-whammy of alternative fuels by 2013.
Might Mazda’s rotary engine find a second life as a range extender? On paper, it sounds like a good idea…but so did building a rotary-powered sports car.