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If Mazda stands for one thing, it is the rotary or Wankel engine. It was thought to be revolutionary with its rotating design. But higher fuel consumption and emissions killed it in 2012. Ironically, it is coming back as a backup for the beleaguered MX-30 EV. This is how it works.

The Mazda faithful have been waiting for over 10 years for the return of its legendary rotary engine. Rumors have suggested that the company was overcoming deficiencies to make a triumphant return. But none of them imagined that it would return as a range extender for its only EV.

Is the Mazda MX-30 rotary engine powered?

A white Mazda MX-30 electric SUV.
Mazda MX-30 | Noriko Hayashi via Getty Images

And that only EV, the MX-30, really needed something, anything, to overcome its range and higher price. With a lack of range at 100 miles and an MSRP of $34,000, nobody was buying it. Over its short two-year life, Mazda has sold only 500 examples. Of course, it didn’t help that it was only sold in California.

But now, it will be returning in 2023 as a hybrid. It’s not the new RX-7 or RX-8 enthusiasts had hoped for, but it does reinvent the MX-30 into an EV with the range of a gas-powered engine. Now, the engine runs at a constant RPM to recharge the battery. 

How much does the rotary engine help the MX-30?

2023 Mazda MX-30 EV | Mazda

The current MX-30 has a 35.5 kWh battery spinning a single electric motor for 144 hp. Its zero to 60 mph is an abysmal 9.6 seconds. It was like Mazda developed it 15 years ago, but waited until 2020 to sell them. But it wasn’t like the range extender plan was never in the works.

Mazda claimed at its introduction in 2020 that the rotary range extender would be available soon. But in subsequent years it just never materialized. So 2023 will finally be the year. Will it help move the Mazda EV needle? 

It’s hard to say. The company has almost kept the EV a secret, and rightly so with it offering so little. For now, we have more questions than answers. Will the current battery and motor combo get some much-needed power increase? Would Mazda consider a second motor? Obviously, the rotary range extender will add weight. With the anemic numbers of the current model, it would almost have to have an increase in something. 

Will we see another rotary engine-powered Mazda?

2023 Mazda MX-30 EV | Mazda

Why Is Anyone Buying the Mazda MX-30 EV?

Mazda hasn’t given up on the rotary engine, but gas-powered engines are fading into the sunset. There is a general consensus that this will be the last application of the rotary engine. In that sense, it will serve two stretching-out goals. It extends the MX-30’s range and also stretches out the life of the Wankel engine in production. 

The next iteration of the rotary will make its first showing at the 2023 Brussels Auto Show in January. By then we can fill you in on numbers to see how much this improves the MX-30.