When Mazda showcased its gorgeous rotary-powered RX Vision concept car at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show, the auto world collectively licked their lips in anticipation of something special landing in the streets. brand showrooms in the early 2020s.
It didn’t have to be. While the RX Vision has won numerous design awards and appeared in the virtual world of the Gran Turismo driving game in 2020, the real world project has been put on the back burner for the foreseeable future.
That said, Mazda is actually bringing the rotary engine back, but not quite as you might expect. In spring 2022, the Hiroshima-based automaker will add a plug-in hybrid model with a rotary engine to its ever-expanding MX-30 lineup, a sign that the company is serious about strengthening its environmental credentials.
Aiming for a carbon neutral future, Mazda launched the MX-30 EV, its very first battery-electric model in summer 2020 in Europe and other markets, followed by a mild hybrid specification with a powertrain. gasoline-electric in Japan in October 2020. And now, in the spring of 2022, the firm will add what it calls a “strong hybrid” as well as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version to the MX-30 range.
And it’s the last version mentioned here – the PHEV – that is causing all the buzz around the MX-30. Using a serial hybrid configuration, which essentially results in a range extension system, the MX-30 PHEV will incorporate an electric motor with a 300-400cc rotary motor that acts solely as a generator charging the batteries. Mazda calls it a standard plug-in hybrid, which means the gasoline-powered rotary engine is not connected directly to the wheels, simply providing juice to power its electric battery and motors.
If we quickly compare Mazda’s PHEV to that of the BMW i3, the range extension system was basically there to get you back to a charging station when your batteries run out. The exact strategy adopted by the MX-30 PHEV will undoubtedly influence the desirability of the package, but being rotary should mean that the powertrain will be smooth and quiet. Mazda has been experimenting with a rotary engine range extension system for over a decade now, with the latest effort showcasing in a Demio (Mazda 2) on the Japanese market a few years ago. But in the United States, Mazda has not sold a rotary engine car since production of the RX-8 ceased in 2012.
While the MX-30 PHEV will once again welcome the rotary engine in what can only be interpreted as “soft rotary feedback,” hopefully the momentum gained by the 2022 reintroduction will help spur a revamp of the RX Vision project.