If you’re a fan of Mazda’s unconventional approach to damn near everything, from the wacky Skyactiv-X compression-ignition engine tech to the legendary Wankel rotary engine that the company perfected before abandoning, then you’ll be pleased to hear its most famous non-piston engine is returning as a range extender for the (range challenged) MX-30 EV SUV. Officially. For real.*
*In limited volumes for 2022. You knew there was going to be a catch!
The rotary range extender has been rumored for ages, and even confirmed officially before back in 2020. But the company has paused its rollout before; back in July, the rotary range extender was paused indefinitely, usually an indication that dark cancelation clouds would be gathering.
It looks like the storm has passed. Mazda has the 2022 MX-30 Plug-In Hybrid EV on its site. (Interestingly, the company is explicitly calling it a PHEV. Some range-extended EVs have shied away from that phrasing, insisting it’s a BEV with an emergency range extender. Wonder what the calculus was there …) Mazda calls it a series plug-in hybrid, meaning the gasoline-fired rotary engine isn’t connected directly to the wheels, merely providing juice to feed its electric battery and motors.
If there’s an aesthetic difference between the PHEV and regular EV versions, we can’t see it, and Mazda isn’t sharing. Nor do we have any pertinent details that we’d really need to determine how the MX-30 PHEV will fix what ails the regular EV, like gas tank capacity, any details on the rotary engine itself (displacement, output), and the weight added by all the additional hardware. Or, importantly, how far the range extender will extend the range. (Sigh.)
Anyone who’s been in an i3 REX in range-extender mode knows that sometimes the little, hard-working engines can’t quite keep up with demand, wheezing up hills and struggling on the freeway. In the i3, the REX was really just there to limp you to a charging station to continue on its way. What strategy the MX-30 adopts will also influence the desirability of the package, but being of a rotary design should mean it’ll be smooth and quiet.
We would not be surprised if the range extender closely resembled the setup that Mazda testing in Japan on the local-market Demio (Mazda 2) a few years back. But in the States, Mazda hasn’t sold a rotary engine since the RX-8 went out of production. Whatever it ends up being, or how compelling the package is, it’s another fascinating bet on unusual technology from a company that loves doubling down on the weird.
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