The rotary engine made famous by sports cars such as the Mazda RX-7 is the inspiration for a potential new portable electric generator.
Mazda is developing a Mazda 2 electric car that uses a compact, 330cc 22kW single-rotor engine as a range extender to recharge the battery pack and double the distance it can cover.
The Japanese company, however, says believes it could make the price of its electric cars more appealing to buyers if the rotary system could also have a secondary purpose as an electric generator.
“To make the [electric car] affordable we need to include value,” Mazda powertrain development manager Takashi Suzuki told CarAdvice in Japan. “If the system can be used as an electric generator, the value can be included.
“We couldn’t find a compact system producing 15kW and that’s why we believe there is a market for such an electric generator."
Suzuki-san said there were multiple uses for such generators.
“A convenience store is one example [of a buyer] – normally it would have a back-up generator, about 15-20kW. [Typically they] need space and instead of a huge [generator] there can be a small one.
“One home needs about 5kW [from a generator], and it could also be used for camping.”
Honda is one car maker that uses more conventional combustion engines for a range of portable generators (below), though Mazda points out they can weigh hundreds of kilos.
It says there are no true mobile generators that provide as much power as what the rotary is capable of.
The range extender assembly, also comprising a nine-litre fuel tank, is compact enough to fit in a small to medium-sized suitcase.
The future of Mazda’s ‘Wankel’ rotary has been the subject of much speculation in recent years, with the topic becoming more relevant since the company’s only rotary-powered car, the RX-8 sports car, was discontinued in 2012.
Mazda executives, including its global boss Masamichi Kogai, are adamant the company has not given up on developing a new-generation rotary car, though such a model seems to be years away.
Mazda engineers admit they’re still working on overcoming issues related to the distinctive engine – such as a shortage of low-end torque and high fuel consumption.
Rotaries – loved by enthusiasts for their smoothness and fast-spinning nature – have been part of Mazda’s engineering DNA since the 1967 Mazda Cosmo.