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Mazda Postpones or Kills Plans for MX-5 With Wankel Range-Extender

When Mazda presented its Wankel range-extender in a tiny image back on June 17, everybody waiting for that version of the MX-30 must have felt a relief. After all, it would be one of the few “series hybrid” vehicles ever to do it right: adopting a larger battery pack – which most of the range – and a small engine to produce electricity is something only the BMW i3 has done so far. The Chevy Volt/Opel Ampera had smaller battery packs with a low electric-only range. Well, we have bad news. In the best-case scenario, Mazda postponed the rotary engine range-extender. In the worst one, it has killed these plans altogether.
Mazda MX-30 With Rotary Engine Range Extender 10 photos
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The first ones to reveal the really bad news were Nikkei and Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun. According to these Japanese newspapers, Mazda has chosen to adopt a different approach to the plug-in hybrid version of that crossover, once presented as Mazda’s first vehicle conceived as an electric car. That was not quite right: the MX-30 has a derivative with a 2-liter engine as its primary propulsion device.

Instead of having an electric car with a range extender, Mazda would have chosen a different approach. According to the Japanese newspapers, it will give it a larger combustion engine to eventually move it – possibly the 2-liter mill we already mentioned. That would allow Mazda to adopt a smaller battery pack than the 35.5 kWh the EV version currently has and save money doing so.

None of the Japanese newspapers came up with another explanation for the strategy shift: getting the rotary engine right. More stringent emission laws made it impossible for Mazda to create a successor to the RX-8. The company planned to put the Wankel engine back to work as a range extender, but it is not unlikely that it still emits more pollutants than it should.

Automotive News got in touch with Mazda and its spokesman, Masahiro Sakata, said the company still considers having a rotary engine as a range extender, denying the plans are over. Yet, he confirmed Mazda no longer has a deadline for that. The previous plan was to release the MX-30 with the Wankel engine in the first half of 2022. Now, the company says it may happen between 2022 and 2025.

Mazda’s reason for sticking with the rotary engine is trying to pay the development cost it had with the technology along these years. However, it would probably be wiser just to forget it and choose a better engine design to become a range extender. Obrist developed one called ZVG (Zero Vibration Generator) that is silent and efficient.

Mazda and Obrist should definitely talk, at least if Mazda still wants to sell cars in Norway. From 2025 on, the country will forbid all new vehicles with combustion engines to be sold there. The MX-30 with a range extender has a little more than three years to sell in that market, and we wonder what Mazda will offer there afterward.


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