Mazda’s Revived Rotary Engine Starts Production

The Wankel gets another shot with Mazda as a PHEV range extender for the MX-30 crossover.

Mazda’s newest rotary engine shown in range-extender configuration as a generator for the plug-in hybrid MX-30 e-SKYACTIV R-EV. (Mazda)

Mazda, the automaker with the longest and richest history of using the Wankel rotary engine announced on June 22, 2023 that it resumed mass production of rotary engines for a new variant of the MX-30 compact crossover. Mazda provided little detail about the engine itself, which serves as a generator for the MX-30 e-SKYACTIV R-EV, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variant of the MX-30 crossover. Mazda hasn’t used the unique powerplant for a production vehicle for more than a decade.

Rotary engine-based generator for the new PHEV variant of Mazda’s MX-30 crossover. (Mazda)

The MX-30 e-SKYACTIV R-EV employs the rotary engine in a series-hybrid layout to generate electricity to replenish the vehicle’s 17.8-kWh lithium-ion battery, which when fully charged, can provide up to 85 km (31 miles) of driving range on Europe’s Worldwide Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) cycle. Gasoline from a 50-L (13.2-gal.) fuel tank supplies the rotary when its operation is required to provide electricity for extended-range driving. In a release, Mazda explained it “positioned it [the rotary engine] on the same axle as a high-output motor and a generator” in the front engine bay.

Rotor for Mazda’s new rotary-engine generator. (Mazda)
Cutaway of the MX-30 e-SKYACTIV R-EV plug-in hybrid. (Mazda)

The vehicle’s battery pack also can be recharged with AC or DC fast-charging. Mazda has yet to say whether the vehicle will be offered in North America; the MX-30 e-SKYACTIV R-EV was revealed in Europe in January 2023. It is the company’s first completely electric-drive model and is built in Hiroshima, Japan.