Mazda has confirmed that work is continuing on the resurrection of a rotary-powered sports car, which will not be hybridised, however the fundamental issues of that type of engine remain a challenge.
Having introduced the Mazda RX Vision at the Tokyo motor show last year, the company has made it one of its internal missions to bring back a rotary sports car of some sort.
Speaking to Australian media at today’s Los Angeles auto show, the company’s head of research and development, Kiyoshi Fujiwara, said that a rotary sports car will come back, but the timeline is undetermined for now.
“RX vision is our vision model for our company and our engineers and designers, therefore for the future – I cannot say when – but in the future I would like to introduce the rotary engine in to RX vision models.” Fujiwara said.
The reason it has taken so long (Mazda built its last production car rotary engine in 2008 with the final RX-8), is due to the fundamental challenges of the Wankel engine.
“The issue is probably fuel economy and exhaust emissions, but from our viewpoint, the issue is the fundamental demerit, the structure issues of the rotary engine itself, we consider developing completely new technologies for breaking through this fundamental constructive issues itself… I cannot say anything specific [regarding] technological issues today, but we are still developing this technology.”
The possibility of solving the emission and torque issues of the rotary engine may appear logically in the form of electrification, using a rotary engine with an electric motor, however Fujiwara says that is not the company’s vision with rotary sports car.
“Rotary engine is suited for performance or sports car, especially for lightweight sports car, because of the low torque in low RPM, therefore pure sports car is just fitted for this kind of rotary engine. Therefore we are considering that kind of models [only].
“Also most of the Mazda fans or rotary engine fans are waiting for the pure sports car without any electrification, I believe, because electrification requires heavy weight of the battery.”
Even so, Fujiwara is realistic about the toughening emission laws and admits that it may have to succumb to a hybrid rotary sports car in the future.
“As the first step I would like to try pure [rotary], then probably severe and tougher regulations for each region or worldwide [come in to effect] and therefore we need some electrification – but at that time, probably more smaller battery technology and smart systems. But as a first step, pure [rotary].”
Fans of turbocharged rotaries will also be pleased to know that it’s under consideration.
“Turbochargers is one of the possibilities for our smaller rotary engines, but I cannot say at this moment as to which system is better. [We] haven’t decided internally. [It’s a] number of years away.”
He joked that the development process is expensive and that while “all of the engineers and designers [at Mazda] love rotary engines, love sports car, but some of the calculators [do not]…”
Other manufacturers, such as Honda with NSX, have gone for the performance hybrid model, so the question remains, would a pure rotary engine sports car be the only way forward or will an electrified model be acceptable?