New rotary-engined Mazda could shun hybrid technology

The next Mazda rotary-engined sports car is likely to arrive with a pure combustion engine instead of relying on electrification, a senior company source has suggested.

The Japanese manufacturer showed its RX-Vision concept sports car at its Los Angeles Auto Show preview event – and a production version of the vehicle is still said to be hanging in the balance as Mazda gears up towards its centenary celebrations in 2020.

However, while the firm’s head of R&D Kiyoshi Fujiwara admitted that several challenges remain before the long-awaited successor to the RX-7 and RX-8 can be given the green light, he acknowledged that a rotary engine development team is still active.

“It is a small group of engineers still working, but they are still working,” Fujiwara told Auto Express, before revealing that there are “more than 10 staff and fewer than one hundred” committed to rotary development. “The things standing in the way are both the business case and the technical challenges – but I am optimistic that a solution for the technical challenges can be found.

Mazda RX-Vision concept

“We have had significant challenges as a business even five years ago and there are debts from the past 30 or 40 years that need to be overcome, but if cars like the new CX-5 are successful then a production version of the RX-Vision could be a possibility. So you can see that CX-5 is extremely important.”

When asked if one of the potential solutions on rotary tech could be electrification, Fujiwara said, “All of our other internal combustion engines will have to have some form of electrification at some point – mild hybrid or 48-volt electrics” he said. “So yes, that type of technology could be in rotary engines in the future.”

“However, I believe I would like to introduce the new rotary engine without electrification,” he said, “because I think that is what the rotary engine fans will want.” 

One other potential product strategy could be for the production RX-Vision to arrive in 2020 with a new generation of rotary engine, and then for a higher-performance version to overcome the technology’s inherit torque deficit by using 48V-based electric turbochargers.

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