Mazda confirms return of the Wankel rotary engine in 2020

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What spins around comes around.

Mazda has confirmed the return of the Wankel rotary engine in 2020, eight years after it put it on hiatus with the cancellation of the RX-8 sports car.

But things are going to be a little different this time.

Mazda will use one as a range-extending generator in a plug-in hybrid vehicle. It will be paired with an electric motor to provide power when the battery runs down.

The automaker cites the engine’s compact packaging and smooth operation as ideally suited for this application. All plug-in hybrids currently in production use repurposed piston engines as generators, which are typically larger and heavier than would be ideal.

The new engine is being developed to run on either gasoline or liquefied petroleum gas, and will be able to provide electricity to external appliances in the event of a power outage, Mazda said.

The type of car it will make its debut in has not been revealed, but a pure electric version will also be offered.

Mazda was one of the first automakers to offer a production rotary engine in 1967 and was the last selling one when the RX-8 went out of production, primarily due to its poor fuel economy and emissions, two shortcomings the company’s research and development has been addressing in recent years.

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