Mazda To Use New Rotary Engine as an Electric Car Range Extender

Colin
By Colin Wood
Oct 8, 2020 | Mazda, rotary, electric, MX-30

The RX-8 marked the end of the rotary engine as we knew it, but Mazda's newest all-electric car is planning to bring it back—this time as a range extender.

The Mazda MX-30 crossover is set to go on sale soon in select markets—i.e., not North America—beginning as a hybrid that will later be offered as an all-electric vehicle.

It's that electric version that will get a yet-to-be-discussed rotary engine that will be used as a range extender, similar to the optional one that could be had in the BMW i3.

Specifics about the engine has not yet been released, but in this video Mazda CEO Akira Marumoto confirms that a rotary range extender will be available in the upcoming electric MX-30. He mentions that fact around the 7:30 mark, and those not fluent in Japanese should be able to get auto-translate subtitles to work.


As of now, there are no official plans to bring the MX-30 to North America, but the fact that Mazda is using the rotary once again—even as a range extender in an electric vehicle—could make rotary fans happy. 

We'll have to wait and see what Mazda has in store for the iconic engine.

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Comments
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Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/8/20 2:43 p.m.

Assuming the intent is to use the engine to power a generator that would in turn provide power to the batteries, it makes sense.  A small, lightweight and compact engine operating at a fixed RPM sounds like something a rotary could be good for.

fidelity101 (Forum Supporter)
fidelity101 (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
10/8/20 3:15 p.m.

that interior is simply stunning. 

tuna55
tuna55 MegaDork
10/8/20 3:20 p.m.

I don't think that will produce the fuel economy consummate with an economical vehicle, and honestly I don't think it's necessary anymore.

 

The interior looks great, though.

 

Now call it a BEV Mazda 3 hatch with around 300 miles range and I'm in.

BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter)
BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/8/20 4:01 p.m.

Right, who on here is going to be the first to bridge port the range extender?

j_tso
j_tso GRM+ Memberand Reader
10/8/20 4:27 p.m.

Sweet. Can we have a 4 rotor back in IMSA now?

Olemiss540
Olemiss540 Reader
10/8/20 4:37 p.m.
fidelity101 (Forum Supporter) said:

that interior is simply stunning. 

"This trim level only available on the "Or should I buy a porsche" special edition." 

Snrub
Snrub HalfDork
10/8/20 4:44 p.m.
tuna55 said:

I don't think that will produce the fuel economy consummate with an economical vehicle, and honestly I don't think it's necessary anymore.

Theoretically a rotary engine can make good fuel economy at a fixed RPM. I guess part of the question is, if "long range" is a moderate, rather than infrequent driving need, does it cost less to have a big battery, or a range extender ICE generator? Does anyone who purchases in this space, truly care about really long range, or the cost/benefit analysis? Is a 1 rotor engine really a better choice than say a 3-cyl? I suspect the rotary is in there for marketing, not because it truely makes commercial sense in this case. The last Mazda rotaries were still hand built.

As you elude to, I think all of the "range extender" electric vehicles like the Volt and i3 have been commercial flops. To take it a step further, has any non-telsa EV, and non-hybrid been a success so far? Early indications are the Porsche Taycan may be the only other one.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
10/8/20 10:26 p.m.
tuna55 said:

I don't think that will produce the fuel economy consummate with an economical vehicle, and honestly I don't think it's necessary anymore.

A Wankel at full load can have a BSFC around .40 lb/hp/hr.  Where the reputation for thirstiness comes from is that they absolutely suck for BSFC at low load, which is where practically all on-road driving is.

 

 

MrJoshua
MrJoshua UltimaDork
10/8/20 10:34 p.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:
tuna55 said:

I don't think that will produce the fuel economy consummate with an economical vehicle, and honestly I don't think it's necessary anymore.

A Wankel at full load can have a BSFC around .40 lb/hp/hr.  Where the reputation for thirstiness comes from is that they absolutely suck for BSFC at low load, which is where practically all on-road driving is.

 

 

On the lowest octane gas you can stir up IIRC.

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa SuperDork
10/8/20 10:44 p.m.

I'm mildly surprised it took Mazda this long to think of this.  I remember reading about a couple companies that were using Wankel engines for small energy generation as far back as a decade ago.  Little tiny things, no bigger than your hand all the way up to "normal" sized ones.

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa SuperDork
10/8/20 10:50 p.m.
Vigo (Forum Supporter)
Vigo (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/8/20 10:59 p.m.

Yeah, everything that sucks about a rotary doesn't suck when its operating at a fixed load and rpm (and temp, even). 

Remember when they stuck a rotary range extender in a Mazda5 concept? The Mazda5 has been discontinued for over 5 years. That's how long we've been waiting for this to be production. 

j_tso
j_tso GRM+ Memberand Reader
10/8/20 11:24 p.m.

In reply to Mr_Asa :

There's also Rotron and Aixro that make small Wankels for UAVs and kart racing.

I also remember a start-up years ago that was going to have magnets and coils inside the rotor and housing so that the engine itself is a generator, never saw more than a patent document.

Vajingo
Vajingo Reader
10/8/20 11:50 p.m.

In reply to Vigo (Forum Supporter) :

Sounds like the rotary would be good paired with a cvt. Keep the engine where it needs to be, and just change the gear ratio

Sonic
Sonic UltraDork
10/9/20 7:17 a.m.

The smooth running chacteristics of the rotary also makes it less obtrusive when the range extender is running. 

nderwater
nderwater UltimaDork
10/9/20 9:49 a.m.

The rotary isn't the only way this car is unique.  Mazda PR says --

HERITAGE CORK
"Because no trees are cut down and only the bark is stripped away to obtain the material, cork is a naturally derived product with low environmental impact. The MX-30 uses cork left over from the production of cork bottle stoppers. The material’s inherent warmth, gentle touch and cushioning are put to good use in the console’s tray section as well as on the door grips. To ensure the high level of durability required for use as car parts, Mazda developed a dedicated coating and a special technique to process the cork and its base material at the same time."

spacecadet (Forum Supporter)
spacecadet (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
10/9/20 10:10 a.m.
Mr_Asa said:

I'm mildly surprised it took Mazda this long to think of this.  I remember reading about a couple companies that were using Wankel engines for small energy generation as far back as a decade ago.  Little tiny things, no bigger than your hand all the way up to "normal" sized ones.

So Mazda has been developing this for..... in automotive lifecycle terms...... a long time. this video from youtube is about to be 7 years old..

 

Rons
Rons GRM+ Memberand Reader
10/9/20 10:17 a.m.

In reply to Snrub :

The Volt was a wonderful engineering feat, marketing was in a consensual relationship with a dog. With regards to range extenders in general without real demographic data the members of this forum are generally home owners with some form of shop who aspire to a larger property with a bigger shop. For a home owner charging at home may mean rearranging uses so a vehicle can be charged.

Here is my personal experience, for the last 13 1/2 years I have been an independent courier and 35+ years ago I delivered pizza. My experiences over the years show me that in areas with lots of renters or multi family developments many cars are parked on the street with no safe access to power, and for these people the range extender will allow them to operate until they can get to an accessible charger.

PS: Why didn't Nissan/GM put the Volt drivetrain in the NV200/Express City?

j_tso
j_tso GRM+ Memberand Reader
10/9/20 10:31 a.m.

In reply to nderwater :

Also a nod to the past. When Mazda was first founded they were a cork manufacturer.

nderwater
nderwater UltimaDork
10/9/20 10:36 a.m.
Rons said:

PS: Why didn't Nissan/GM put the Volt drivetrain in the NV200/Express City?

It's puzzling, isn't it?  The heavier the vehicle, the bigger the fuel savings and emissions reduction benefit from a hybrid drivetrain.  And the bigger the vehicle, the easier it is to package the extra components.

wspohn
wspohn Dork
10/9/20 12:06 p.m.

The rotaries were never stars at emissions either, but I wonder of that changes when they are run at steady rpm rather than normal driving?

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
10/9/20 3:49 p.m.
wspohn said:

The rotaries were never stars at emissions either, but I wonder of that changes when they are run at steady rpm rather than normal driving?

Oddly enough, the huge push by everyone to develop a viable Wankel was due to emissions.  They are naturally very low in NOx, so emissions cleanup is just a matter of running rich and burning the leftover CO/HC in the exhaust with an air pump.  (Mazda avoided catalytic converters in the US until 1981, at which point they were mandatory.)  For piston engines, some automakers were predicting 3000mi engine service lives if they had to meet 1975 and later standards... before the catalytic converter was available.

When the cats were in use, and the automakers could easily clean emissions after the fact, interest in the Wankel dropped to zero.

bruceman
bruceman Reader
10/9/20 5:23 p.m.

Just stop it

clshore
clshore Reader
10/10/20 8:26 a.m.

Although the Wankel offers a lot in range extender service, a microturbine can offer even more.

mad_machine (Forum Supporter)
mad_machine (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/10/20 10:30 a.m.
tuna55 said:

 

The interior looks great, though.

the back seat looks torturous 

Radardgo98
Radardgo98 New Reader
10/10/20 11:29 a.m.

In reply to Colin Wood :

Getting us all fired up for a new rotary(not really a fan of rotary engines)... Bet It's hydrogen

 

jb229
jb229 New Reader
10/12/20 6:06 a.m.

In reply to mad_machine (Forum Supporter) :

It looks as though they're intended to be folded down, similar to the Element (or is that just the half-doors reminding me of the Element?).

RX8driver
RX8driver Reader
10/12/20 8:58 a.m.

One of the big benefits to a small rotary range extender versus a piston engine has to be NVH, as rotaries are very smooth, especially if you're comparing it to a 2 or 3 cyl piston engine. Battery powered driving is very smooth and quiet, so any range extender would probably have more strict NVH requirements than normal.

 

Personally, for the same weight and price, I'd prefer a ~50 mile range PHEV with a range extender versus a 400 mile range BEV. Easily 95% or more of my driving would be done on batteries, but those few times when we need to go further could be done without a second thought. For many, a full BEV might never be practical (rural living, sparsely populated areas), but PHEV's eliminate most fuel use and would be much more acceptable to most people. I think viewing it as an intermediate step to full BEV adoption is short sighted.  

Mr. Lee
Mr. Lee GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
10/12/20 1:27 p.m.

My FD Rx7 when ran in it's sweet spot on the highway would knock down mid 30's mpg with no difficulty. That said, it's sweet spot put you at a ~90mph cruising speed, which I don't have the IDGAF anymore to run at that speed constantly down the interstate. At a constant speed/light load it burned next to nothing.

Vigo (Forum Supporter)
Vigo (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/12/20 2:02 p.m.

Personally, for the same weight and price, I'd prefer a ~50 mile range PHEV with a range extender versus a 400 mile range BEV. Easily 95% or more of my driving would be done on batteries, but those few times when we need to go further could be done without a second thought. For many, a full BEV might never be practical (rural living, sparsely populated areas), but PHEV's eliminate most fuel use and would be much more acceptable to most people. I think viewing it as an intermediate step to full BEV adoption is short sighted.  

I do personally think that with the slow market penetration of PHEVs, they may end up being bit players instead of the majority that they should practically already be. Once BEV range in affordable models is consistently past 250 miles, i think most of the range concerns from people who weren't going to use it anyway will mostly disappear. 

Having said that, i personally like the PHEV  thing quite a lot. When i had a hybrid that couldn't do electric-only, i wished it could at least some electric only propulsion. When i had a hybrid that could do electric only, i wished it could do more of it. I haven't owned a hybrid/PHEV that does this yet, but i'd be just fine having all physical wheel turning done by an electric motor and have the ICE relegated to generator status (Volt, Accord Hybrid, probably many others).  I would certainly prefer the ICE generator to be a sweet smooth little rotary with less parts and less nvh..But I have yet to actually wish the ICE wasn't there at all, and i suspect that might be forced onto us before i actually desire it on my own. PHEV is the sweet spot for me personally. Other than having a silly i-Miev with 50 miles of range because my shop commute is 4.6 miles and i can get one for $3900 and it doubles as a gigantic self-propelled battery pack i could potentially harness for other things. cheeky The only BEVs that i might actually buy in the near future are just because you can get an EV cheaper than you can get ANY phev. Ironically.

GIRTHQUAKE
GIRTHQUAKE Dork
10/12/20 2:15 p.m.

There's also that illogical component too; a 400+ mile range, Tesla-grade supercharging car would more than satisfy 99% of the public need but an enormous percent would shout "but what if I take a trip?????" or something to that affect no matter what. But suddenly toss in a standard, known factor- a gas engine- and suddenly concern relaxes around the unknown component. It's frustrating, but that's humanity for you.

On the plus side, that little rotary extender can also be a big deal for other types of cost savings- that little rotary could keep Mazda from needing to source battery-specific parts like heat pumps and powerful refrigerant systems, letting them repurpose existing AC compressors and such. Since the MX-30 only carries "enough" battery to their logic, it could be a way for Mazda to enter the Electric car markets cheaper by not using lots of bespoke parts and materials. I'd feel safe making a bet that the rotary is gonna be very similar to the Renesis.

Also I think this thing looks amazing. Mazda and Tesla (Until GM revealed the Ultimum) are the only manufacturers I'm excited for in the future because they're hungry and need successes; they take risks, and it shows.

Rons
Rons GRM+ Memberand Reader
10/12/20 2:42 p.m.

At the risk of repeating myself,  PHEV is the option for those for whom recharging outlets are restricted. If one is forced by circumstance to park on the street with limited electrical power, if one is forced to share charging in a parking structure BEVs will not be a worthwhile choice. 

PHEVs will be the choice for a large portion of city dwellers until there is much more pay as you go charging.

pheller
pheller UltimaDork
10/12/20 6:20 p.m.

I recently took a 388 mile trip to California - the epicenter of EVs. 

 

My hotel did not have easy access to any charging infrastructure. I might have been able to string a 120v extension cord out to the parking lot, which I'm sure the owners would've loved. I would've then had to pay for parking at the hotel, instead of parking around the corner for free.

 

We didn't drive around much while we were there. Traffic around San Diego moves pretty quick, so luckily we were able to wring out all of the 110hp the 1.5l in the Honda Fit could muster. 

 

Coming home was up and over some big mountains. I would not want that car to have any less power, although if the power with smooth and quieter, that'd be cool. 

 

I'm 100% sold on PHEVs. I also think PHEVs should be able to run around town in full EV mode. My Prius has more power and torque than my Fit, and as such, is a little more enjoyable to drive, despite knocking out 20 extra mpgs. It's issues with eating oil prevented me from driving to CA.

 

I just wish more PHEVs were bigger. Toyota RAV4 Prime is looking like a good candidate.  

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
10/12/20 6:40 p.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:
tuna55 said:

I don't think that will produce the fuel economy consummate with an economical vehicle, and honestly I don't think it's necessary anymore.

A Wankel at full load can have a BSFC around .40 lb/hp/hr.  Where the reputation for thirstiness comes from is that they absolutely suck for BSFC at low load, which is where practically all on-road driving is.

 

 

That's not all that great.

That said, I'm sure they are A) capable of much better than that and B) Mazda has done the math.

Vigo (Forum Supporter)
Vigo (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/14/20 1:27 p.m.

I just wish more PHEVs were bigger. Toyota RAV4 Prime is looking like a good candidate.  

 Everything i've seen of it so far seems great. But i've also heard that there will be so few available initially that each Toyota dealer may only get a small handful for at least the first year. Like, low single digits. frown

spacecadet (Forum Supporter)
spacecadet (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
10/14/20 2:24 p.m.
pheller said:

I just wish more PHEVs were bigger. Toyota RAV4 Prime is looking like a good candidate.  

I helped my parents get a screaming deal last year on a used 2010 RX450h.

it's only a hybrid.. but i've been blown away at the kind of mileage it can get.
 

if it didn't need premium it would be damn near perfect.

my dad and I both love the very short range EV mode it has.

Vigo (Forum Supporter)
Vigo (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/19/20 2:59 p.m.

In reply to spacecadet (Forum Supporter) :

With the Rav4 Prime, it also drops the 0-60 from mid 6s to mid 5s. Not that anyone was asking them to be faster! I'm real curious to see the Lexus uses of that drivetrain. Even the current Venza looks like it would be sweet with the Prime drivetrain. I was never attracted to the original Venza, but the new one is.. much different. 

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