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Mazda Hints That Rotary Engine Will Make A Comeback But Not Like You Imagine

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RX8 Rotary
Photo Credit: Mazda

The 2017 Spring Issue of ZoomZoom magazine makes a couple of hints at a rotary revival to celebrate 50 years of rotary technology.

Anniversaries of certain milestones tend to push some car companies to commemorate that achievement in a special way. If it wasn’t for the looming deadline of the 50th year anniversary of Ford winning at Le Mans, the 2017 Ford GT most likely wouldn’t have been realized as we know it today. May 30, 1967 marked the debut of the Cosmo Sport for Mazda. This was the first Rotary engine to hit mass production. Now, 50 years later, Rotary fans are hankering for any news at a Rotary revival and it looks like Mazda’s official ZoomZoom magazine has whet their appetite. But it’s not the Rotary revival that most of the hoped for.

According to ZoomZoom magazine on the pitfalls of the Rotary engine, when compared to regular engines, the Rotary doesn’t make much sense on paper.

In recent times, the rotary engine’s chief bugbear was its relatively poor fuel economy and higher level of emissions compared with the best modern gasoline or diesel engines, including Mazda’s own SKYACTIV powerplants.

The rising average of a car company’s MPG spread out among its fleet thanks to stricter fuel consumption legislation has the rotary engine’s inherent need to gulp down fuel characterized as unacceptable by today’s standards. Even with some companies like Honda who’ve mastered the art of the small engine, MPG guidelines have forced them to downgrade to smaller engines supplemented by turbos. But Mazda has found that there are applications where the Rotary engine does have advantages.

The rotary may indeed be on the verge of a comeback. As the primary power source, it may be comparatively thirstier as revs rise and fall and loads vary. But at constant and optimal rpm, such as experienced by a generator, it is ideal.

Mazda has experimented with the rotary as a range extender in the past before with their Mazda 2 RE but we’ve long since written that project off as an R&D exercise than a real rotary comeback.

ZoomZoom further goes on to explain that Hydrogen may be the saving grace for this engine technology.

Rotary engines can run superbly on hydrogen, the universe’s most abundant element. It’s also very clean: combusting hydrogen produces only water vapor.

The feasibility of a hydrogen powered car is still up for debate, but with mostly Japan being the vanguard of a Hydrogen infrastructure, the chances of a hydrogen car as a reality would most likely come from the likes of Mazda, Honda, and Toyota (with the latter two already having working hydrogen cars.) Not to mention that batch of Hydrogen powered RX-8’s Mazda lent to Norway back in 2008. We’ve included a few pictures of that below.

Then there’s the question of the RX-Vision concept that stole the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show. As a design language, the Mazda’s Rotary cars have, for the most part, reflected their engines. Smooth lines, an attractive profile, and an overall design befitting of a avantegarde engine technology.

May 30 is literally a few days away and although all indicators from Mazda as well as the Rotary rumor mill point to nothing huge coming from Mazda as far as a true rotary revival is concerned, we wouldn’t write off a huge reveal.

Rotary engines are a part of Mazda’s DNA. Anything coming from Mazda to keep that DNA alive and well won’t be half-baked just because of a looming date. We’re sure that Mazda will find some way to honor and keep Rotary fans satisfied on May 30, possibly with even more hints. But if there will be a rotary revival, it won’t be that redlining surge of power after 5K RPM’s that Rotary heads know and love.

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