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Mazda has re-committed to the rotary engine concept for the future, with several rotary-powered projects in the pipeline.
Rotorheads worldwide, who get very upset when you call them Wank(el)ers, feared that the rotary had spun its last when production of the iconic RX-8 ended in June, until Mazda boss Takashi Yamanouchi let some Toyo Kogyo cats out of the bag at the Moscow motor show.
He said the company would release a range-extended electric car as early as 2013 (albeit initially only in Japan and only on lease) with a compact rotary engine in the boot to charge the batteries.
Rotaries, he admitted, had efficiency issues under acceleration (and on the overrun, when raw fuel tends to get flushed out of the exhaust ports, to the detriment of the planet and the owners' fuel bill) but the range-extender concept overcame that.
“We can keep it spinning at its most efficient 2000rpm, while also taking advantage of its size.”
But he wouldn't say whether the rotary/electric extended-range car would be new or based on an existing model, although it's known the Mazda has in the past built experimental range-extended vehicles with both petrol and hydrogen-powered engines.
Yamanouchi is not a bean-counter - he's an engineer, and a big fan of rotary engines. He said the reason he joined Mazda in 1967 was because it was working on rotaries, and he wasn't about to give up on them.
“We continue to explore ways to improve the fuel efficiency and capabilities of the rotary engine,” he said. “so it can be the primary power source of a car again.”