Mazda looks set to revive the rotary engine next year, in the form of an optional range extender for its upcoming electric vehicle (EV).
In a new report by Dutch website, AutoRAI.nl, Martijn ten Brink, vice president of sales and customer service for Mazda's European division, said the company's new EV will debut sometime in 2019, and will be similar in size to the Mazda 3.
"An electric car has also been included in [the Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030] plan. We introduce them mainly because some markets require us to do so," he said.
"The main part at Mazda remains the fuel engine, but we also come with an electric car. That is not a BMW i3-like car, but a car with the size of a Mazda 3. A crossover-like model would be nice."
Additionally, Brink told the publication Mazda's new EV will be optionally available with a rotary (wankel) range extender for those with range anxiety.
"Optionally we supply the electric car with a range extender in the form of a wankel engine," he said.
"This is mainly to take away any concerns from customers. Not really necessary, because the average buyer travels an average of 60 kilometres per day from home to work and back again."
"We leave the size of the battery pack and the range in the middle for a while. These are things that can always be changed at the last moment."
The rotary engine is claimed to be very compact – about the size of a shoebox – and vibration-free, meaning drivers won't notice when it's running as a generator.
This isn't the first time we've heard of Mazda using a rotary engine as a range extender. The company showed off a electric prototype based on the previous-generation Mazda 2 that featured a 330cc single-rotor engine (above and below) that essentially doubled the driving range in 2013.
Mazda's European sales boss was also quick to point out the misconception of EVs being 'emissionless', arguing pollutants emitted during the generation process cancel out the enviro-friendly nature of electric vehicles.
"Energy must be generated. This is often done by burning brown coal. That current disappears in the battery pack of electric cars," Martijn said.
"To what extent is there then emission-free driving? Only when energy is produced in a renewable way will you contribute to reducing CO2 emissions."
According to the report, this is for this reason Mazda is investing heavily in making petrol engines cleaner.