Mazda's on-again, off-again next-generation rotary engine is in limbo once more. It was unveiled as a range extender for the MX-30, but the firm backpedaled and said it's too early to tell when or if it will reach production.
"We are still considering using the rotary engine as a range extender, but the timing of its introduction is undecided," explained Mazda spokesperson Masahiro Sakata in an interview with industry trade journal Automotive News.
Reports coming out of Japan paint a different picture. According to the same source, Japanese newspapers Nikkei and Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun claim the range extender has been shelved for good because incorporating it into an electric powertrain would have required a bigger battery, which in turn would have made EVs even more expensive.
Mazda hasn't commented on the Wankel engine's future. Earlier in 2021, it announced plans to release the MX-30 (pictured) in California in fall 2021. The crossover was scheduled to launch with a battery-electric powertrain, but a plug-in hybrid variant that made use of the aforementioned rotary engine was penciled in for a 2022 launch. "The rotary generator will charge the battery powering the electric motor," a spokesperson told Autoblog, meaning the engine wouldn't have spun the wheels directly. BMW initially made the i3 available with a similar technology.
Firing up the Wankel would have given the MX-30 a more usable driving range. American numbers haven't been released yet, but the EV earned a 124-mile range rating on the optimistic WLTP testing cycle used in Europe.
We don't know if the other electrified models Mazda has in the works were scheduled to use the rotary engine. The company is planning on releasing 10 hybrids and three EVs between 2022 and 2025, but technical specifications haven't been published. What's nearly certain is that the odds of seeing a new rotary engine in a follow-up to the sporty RX-8 (like the RX-Vision concept introduced in Tokyo in 2015) are not in the enthusiast world's favor.