Keeping the rotary dream alive! Through patent filings, at least.
Before getting into the meat of Mazda’s recent filing with the European Patent Office, it’s important to get a huge disclaimer out of the way. Rumors have been fast and fierce about the rotary’s revival since the RX-8 died in 2012, but this information does not mean we’ll see a new production rotary car anytime soon. The automaker has been moving in an entirely different direction for years, and while we are technically seeing a rotary unit in the MX-30 as a range extender, there are massive headwinds to reintroducing it as a car’s main propulsion.
The triple-rotor design comes mated to a 48-volt mild hybrid system, and by virtue of the drawing above the engine sends power to the rear wheels. On its face, it sounds like the much-hyped RX-Vision coupe come to life. There are a few more interesting elements here, including one case with an in-wheel motor at the front, as well as an aluminum space frame chassis similar to some of Mazda’s previous patent filings.
Again, the likelihood that we’ll see this engine in action remains low. Rotary engines face quite a few problems in an age of tightening emissions (and electrification). Depending on how the company’s partnership with Toyota plays out, we may see the relatively lightweight, power-dense rotary engine come in through a PHEV application. Fitting a more compact engine to a future vehicle could help deliver performance while also keeping weight down, and the electric part of that equation could counteract the rotary’s inherently terrible fuel economy. A PHEV would also allow a vehicle to drive on electricity alone, dealing with government regulations banning internal combustion engines in cities over the coming decade.
Time, as always will tell. While I’m not particularly hopeful a new rotary Mazda will happen (I stopped holding my breath in the mid-2010s), at least their engineers are still pushing the idea forward. You never know, right?
If you’re interested in learning more about Mazda’s patent, you can search the EPO listings through a service called Espacenet, using the top search bar. The case numbers are EP3932712A1, EP3932714A1 and EP3932730A1 respectively.
Speaking of rotary engines, check out our last RX-8 review from way back in 2011 below!