Mazda has long been fond of the rotary engine and talk of using it as a range extnder has been seen before of the past couple of years.
Now the company is believed likely to produce a plug-in hybrid based around a 330 cc (0.33-liter) single rotor Wankel rotary rear mounted in its new Mazda2.
A prototype Mazda2 converted to EV weighs 2,821-pounds (1,280kg) and has a 440 pound (200kg), 20-kwh lithium-ion battery pack, which powers a 75-kw/150Nm electric motor.
A rotary makes tremendous power for its displacement and weight, but larger ones have struggled with emissions and at at times reliability.
Revealed last year as an add-on to its Mazda2 EV prototype EV, Mazda said testing shows the small rotary is at least 5dBa quieter at the same rpm than an equivalent gasoline or diesel piston engine.
Equipped with a 2.3-gallon (9e-liter) tank capable of being fueled with gas, butane, or propane, Mazda said the 28-kilowatt rotary engine/generator almost doubled the driving range to 236 miles (380km).
A small fuel tank just to buy some extra miles, but not contemplate long-distance driving is in concept reminiscent of what BMW has done with its range-extended i3.
And news of this potential Mazda comes to us via Australia where they say the market is too small to justify such a creation from its sort-of ambivalent-sounding maker.
“The only markets in which you can justify bringing something like that out, to get at least a reasonable amount of volume to justify setting it up as a saleable model, are ones where there’s government support for those types of models,” Mazda Australia managing director Martin Benders told motoring.com.au.
In Japan, the Mazda2 is called the Demio, and is likely to be made available with a rotary engine-assisted plug-in hybrid powertrain, as previewed by the previous-generation Mazda2 range-extender electric vehicle.
“In Japan hybrids sort of took over as the brand of choice, but only for people who want the easy route to being green – [people who say] ‘I’ll buy a hybrid so that makes me green’ – not people who actually think about whether it’s viable technology or not.”
If it’s about CO2 reduction, Benders said Mazda’s new more-affordable conventional engine tech is where it’s at.
“As the best possible fuel economy at an affordable price hybrid doesn’t make sense, because the fuel economy gain isn’t that great unless half of all sales are hybrid, which won’t happen without big tax breaks like in the Netherlands,” he said.
And then you have the U.S., driven by California.
Could it come here with the requisite subsidies and potential volume in place Benders said would be needed?
Looks like maybe assuming it does OK in Japan. We’ll see.