Mazda will launch two new battery-powered electric vehicles in 2020, one of which will incorporate a Wankel rotary engine as a range-extender.

Last seen under the bonnet of Mazda’s well-regarded RX-8, the rotary engine uses a triangular-shaped rotor that spins within a specially-shaped combustion chamber.

Moving parts are limited to the rotor itself, meaning it benefits from low internal friction, creates excellent power for its small size and, with only one moving part, operates exceptionally quietly.

This, Mazda reasons, makes it perfect as a range-extender – an engine that, instead of driving the car’s wheels, generates electricity to recharge the battery.

The rotary engine’s simplicity also makes it perfect for burning gaseous fuels such as LPG, while its small size simplifies the job of packaging it within the vehicle alongside the electric drive components.

Interestingly, the company went on to make the case for sending Mazda range-extended EVs to areas hit by natural disasters, where the rotary engine could provide a source of LPG-generated electricity while local supplies were restored.

Mazda made the announcement today as part of the company’s Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030 programme, which recognises that combustion engines coupled with some form of electrification are likely to account for 95% of the vehicles it produces in 2030, and that by itself warrants research and development to maximise the combustion engine’s efficiency as much as possible.

Alex

Editor

Freelance journalist, ex-offroad driving instructor and long distance road-tripper. If you have any questions about this piece, feel free to drop me a line on Twitter.