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.
Japanese blogger taku2-4885 first happened upon this information, as did our friends over at Autoblog.
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!