Mazda MX-30 might get rotary-engined range extender

By CARSIFU | 20 April 2020

HIROSHIMA: The Mazda MX-30 - the Japanese carmaker's first mass-production electric vehicle (EV) - could get a small single-rotor engine used as a range extender.

A press release by Mazda noted that a prototype Mazda2 EV had such a powertrain, and something similar could find its way onto the MX-30 crossover SUV arriving in Europe this year.

Mazda is famed for its RX-7 compact rotary-engined sports car.

Launched in 1978, the RX-7 was Mazda’s first mass-market sports car and would go on to become the best-selling rotary powered vehicle in history.

The distinctive howl of the RX-7’s twin-rotor powerplant rocked race tracks in Europe and beyond from the beginning, winning the British Saloon Car Championship in 1980 and 1981 and demonstrating its

reliability by taking overall victory at the 1981 24 Hours of Spa – the first Japanese car to achieve this.

It was a golden age elsewhere, too. In the US, the RX-7 won over 100 IMSA races, more than any other model of any brand.

RX-7_001 NEW00

The achievements of the RX-7 are all the more astounding when you consider that the future of the rotary engine was in jeopardy when Mazda began developing the RX-7.

The carmaker had offered rotaries in most of its models until the oil crisis of 1973-74, when skyrocketing fuel prices pushed the peppy but thirsty powerplants out of favour with consumers.

Mazda decided to drop the engines for most of its saloons , hatchbacks and estate cars, and might have abandoned them entirely – as had every other carmaker.

But then-head of R&D Kenichi Yamamoto resisted, arguing how crucial a differentiator the rotary was for the company.

Yamamoto, who led the team of engineers that developed Mazda’s first rotary engines in the 1960s, set out to overhaul the existing 12A engine and significantly improve fuel economy.

Among other things, his team added more durable apex seals – a problem spot – and improved lubrication.

They then helped design the ideal vehicle for it. Small and light yet smooth running, powerful and rev-happy, the rotary was perfect for a sports car.

And the RX-7, a sleek, low-slung coupe with a wedge-shaped nose and wraparound window on the rear hatch, was built specifically for this engine.

The year 2002 marked the end of one of the most exceptional sports cars in history.

A total of 811,634 were produced between 1978 and 2002, by far the most of any rotary model.

The RX-7 spirited lived on with the Mazda RX-8, which followed in 2003.