Mazda Rotary Motor Finds Second Life As Range Extender


mazda2-range-extenderWhile 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.


About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
  • It sounds pretty good to me. ~124 mile electric range plus ~111 miles on the genset, at 45MPG. That is significantly better than the Chevy Volt. And that is in a chassis that has not been optimized. It is far simpler than the Volt, as well. So, it probably would cost a lot less.

    I’d say that Mazda has a winner on their hands.

    • danwat1234

      Except if the car were to be Bevx CARB rated, the range extender probably couldn’t come on until the battery is almost dead, to curb gas usage. So, you could face a reduce amount of power available if you are going up an incline at a good speed and the range extender can’t keep up, as is the case with the i3 rex. It can’t have a configuration option to turn on the range extender early if it is to be Bevx rated, which is also why the gas tank is small, another requirement of Bevx rating.

      • The ICE does not power the wheels, so maximum torque would always be available.

        I hope Mazda builds it.

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