While the rotary engine once set Mazda apart from automakers, these days the design just isn’t fuel efficient enough to meet today’s rigid fuel economy standards. But the idea of using a small rotary engine as a range-extender for a plug-in hybrid is being bandied about by Mazda, and the results are something worth writing home about.
Rotary engines are compact and simple compared to standard internal combustion engines, and lightweight to boot. So even in a small car like the Mazda2, a 0.3 liter rotary engine hardly takes up any space at all. An eletric motor is good for about 100 horsepower and 200 ft-lbs of torque, and the battery bank is good for about 125 miles of driving range on Japan’s admittedly-generous testing scale. The 330cc rotary engine doubles the driving range, and ensures you’re never without the ability to add range in a short time.
The gas tank holds only about 2.6 gallons of fuel, or 10 liters, which works out to be about 45 or so miles per gallon for the rotary engine. That is quite efficient, and this electrified Mazda2 reminds me a whole lot of the BMW i3 with a range extender, but almost assuredly much cheaper. While the rotary never directly drives the vehicle, it may be the best use of rotary technology in the 21st century.
For now the Mazda2 plug-in is mostly just a test vehicle, with a limited top speed of just 75 mph, with the 0 to 60 mph time somewhere in the 12 second range. There are other Mazda3 alt-fuel vehicles, including a regular hybrid, in the works as well though Mazda still seems to be betting on diesels in the long run
. This car isn’t going to light the world on fire, but it could give rotary engines another life as range extenders for the quirky Japanese brand. Rotary fans can rejoice…sorta.