Despite its handful of drawbacks, rotary engines have always been one of the coolest ways to power a vehicle. That’s why Mazda has hinted at bringing the rotary back to some of its models in a more modern form. According to DS&F, an electrified revival could be in the works. So, how long has Mazda used the rotary engine, and where could the automaker be taking this new technology?
What’s the deal with the rotary engine?
Mazda using the rotary engine goes as far back as the 1960s, according to MotorTrend. This type of motor was the brainchild of Felix Wankel, who developed the design in the 1950s. The rotary engine is powered from spinning rotors instead of the pistons we’re familiar with in our modern-day combustible motors.
When Mazda took it on, it revived its dying brand to avoid a consolidation with another Japanese automaker. The rotary engine proved its worth, and the first vehicle in the Mazda lineup to get it was the 1967 Cosmo Sport 110S. This model ran on a 1.2-liter, two-rotor version that generated 110 horsepower.
What made the rotary motor a powerhouse was the speed it could produce. It turned out to be advantageous with its compact size, which enabled it to provide tons of power without adding too much weight to the vehicle.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t as fuel-efficient and could eat through more oil than your typical motor. The automaker continued to use the engine until 2012 when it was no longer viable in its combustible form. Mazda, however, is bringing it back as a whole new design.
Is Mazda only bringing back rotary engines for EVs?
Mazda had announced the return of the rotary engine, which led many to believe it would be a hydrogen-fueled version. As of right now, it appears that it will only be a range-extender for the likes of the MX-30 and possibly other models. Are we sure that any form of a rotary motor is set for Mazda’s future lineup? Well, it’s not 100 percent, but there are a few pretty convincing clues.
The automaker applied for at least eight new trademarks, and the names are steering us in an electric direction, according to CarBuzz. The models include the e-SKYACTIV name, with one of three suffixes added. There’s the R-Energy, R-HEV, and the R-EV. The R most likely indicates rotary-powered along with the electric powertrains of each of its hybrid and all-electric models.
The R-Energy variant is unknown at this time. Whether it refers to the hydrogen-fueled version or not is only speculation right now. Additionally, one more trademark was also applied for, involving a new logo for the Mazda line. It has an uncanny resemblance to a rotor with the letter e infused within it.
What else does Mazda have in the works?
Some of the trademarks Mazda has applied for appear to be trim-level names or possibly special editions of certain models. One is the VS TERRACOTTA SELECTION. We know the VS refers to the MX-5 Miata RF. The Terracotta portion might refer to a special theme with a terracotta-colored exterior, or interior pieces, as CarBuzz theorizes.
Another is the PRO-XROSS STYLE. This one more than likely describes some off-road vehicle, which could be a variant on the CX-30 or the CX-8 models. We knew that new anniversary editions would begin selling in Japan for the Mazda CX-30, but it would be a while before they hit American shores due to the pandemic.
The remaining trademarks were for ‘Field Journey’ and ‘Sports Appearance.’ These two sound more like special edition names as well. Which vehicles they refer to are unknown at this time.
There is no confirmation yet on Mazda’s rotary engine plans. However, with the news breaking on these trademark applications, we can’t help but think that some form of the motor is on its way, whether it’s fueled by hydrogen or electric power, or possibly both.