Following confirmation both the mild-hybrid and all-electric versions of Mazda's new MX-30 small SUV will arrive in Australia in 2021, the brand's local arm has confirmed it is also interested in offering the electric model with a rotary range-extender as "a third addition" in 2022.
Mazda pioneered the use of rotary engines – smaller, lighter alternatives to conventional piston engines that offered excellent power-to-weight ratios – in its cars in the late 1960s, but the modern application will take on a slightly different form.
On electric MX-30 models, the rotary engine doesn't drive the wheels, but rather will work as a compact generator to prolong the battery life, allowing drivers to travel further than the car's current claimed range of 224km (or 200km on the WLTP cycle) on a single charge.
While the MX-30 will still need to be plugged in to an external power source in order to fully recharge its 35.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the range extender will offer an as-yet unconfirmed additional distance to the vehicle's existing range.
In order to function, the rotary range extender will also need to be topped up with a small amount of fuel.
"Mazda Corporation has announced a 2022 start [for production] and we’ve expressed our interest, so it’s available for our market and we’d love to have a third addition," Mazda Australia Managing Director, Vinesh Bhindi, told media at an MX-30 event in Melbourne.
"Production would start first quarter of 2022 – that doesn’t mean that’s when we [Mazda Australia] will get it, but assuming we can make a business case and all those usual caveats, it will be sometime next year," Mazda Australia Marketing and Product Director Alastair Doak added.
The rotary range-extender option will join the mild-hybrid and electric MX-30 models, both of which will go on sale this year, with the mild-hybrid arriving first.
Pictured above: The full-electric MX-30.
While Mr Doak said Mazda Australia expected the mild-hybrid to take the lion's share of the sales split, he sees the electric option as a car that will appeal to early adopters and trendsetters.
As for the electric car with rotary range-extender, Mr Doak said "it's still talking to those trendsetters, but in some ways it's even cooler [than the electric version]".
"There are people who love rotary engine, and I think it will still be those early adopters, and people who interested in technology," he said of the model's target buyers.
"How [the rotary range-extender] works is that it doesn’t drive the car, it’s a generator – it’s generating electricity that then pumps into the battery," Mr Doak explained.
"So it just means you can drive much longer distance using the range-extender – whether it cuts in automatically with a certain amount of charge left, or something will pop up on the screen asking if you want to turn it on."
As well as going a way to combatting the range anxiety that still exists in prospective electric car buyers, Mr Doak said he believes the rotary range-extender will also appeal to those with sustainability in mind.
"It will still have a very impressive CO2 number and very much an eye to improving [Mazda's] carbon footprint and sustainable motoring into the future.”
It's not the first time Mazda has floated the idea of using the rotary range extender on one of its cars – in late 2013 it fitted it to an electric Mazda 2 hatch prototype.