The rotor heads have spoken and Mazda has listened. Following a rapturous reception for its Iconic SP concept car Mazda is now working on bringing a rotary-powered sports car to market.
“I am very happy and deeply moved by all the support and encouragement I have received for the compact sports car concept,” said Mazda President and CEO Masahiro Moro at the 2024 Tokyo Auto Salon. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all. With your encouragement, we are launching a rotary engine development group on 1 February to move closer to this dream.”
The Wankel wonder has recently been revived in the MX-30 crossover where a single-rotor version serves as a range extender for the car’s electric powertrain. It took Mazda much longer than anticipated to get this setup working, overcoming the rotary’s thirst for gas and oil, while improving reliability and emissions. In the MX-30 the motor can operate at its most efficient, running at an almost constant speed to recharge the car’s batteries.
That kind of setup doesn’t sound like the makings of a thrilling sports car, but Mazda has previously applied for patents for multi-rotor hybrids which could provide more high-revving excitement. Combining electric and rotary power would provide the low-end torque that’s always been missing from Wankel’s smooth operator.
Another ambitious option could be to adopt e-fuels as Mazda is involved in a research program to produce gasoline from algae which would be carbon-neutral. Finally, hydrogen is still out there on the horizon. As far back as 2003 Mazda proved that it could run the rotary on H2, and even leased a small fleet of converted RX-8 Hydrogen REs to customers in Norway to run up and down the country’s so-called Hydrogen Highway.
Moro-san’s announcement put no timeline on the project, but whatever form the rotary’s return to a sports car takes, we’re here for it.