Would you believe me if I told you that Mazda is not only reviving its rotary engine development team but also accelerating R&D for modern-day Wankels? The automaker said as much in a press release on Thursday, giving us all a huge heap of hope that the spinning Dorito will soldier on for years to come.
Mazda explicitly says that the rotary engine development group consists of 36 engineers who have previously worked on state-of-the-art powertrain systems. The automaker has pumped out a few of these in recent years, with projects like the compression-ignition Skyactiv-X engine. The powertrain specialists are being tasked with evolving the rotary design for generator applications, similar to what we've already seen in the MX-30 EV. That maybe isn't so exciting, but the company's announcement also names carbon-neutral fuel projects. That is neat, if you ask me.
This news comes roughly two weeks after Mazda President and CEO Masahiro Moro spoke about rotaries at the 2024 Tokyo Auto Salon. It was there that he indicated such a program would launch, and Thursday's release confirms it's happening at a seemingly increased pace. In regards to the gorgeous Iconic SP Concept, Moro said:
"I am very happy and deeply moved by all the support and encouragement I have received for the compact sports car concept. 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."
Moro's sentiment is echoed by Mazda Chief Technical Officer Ichiro Hirose, who said the aim is to make "a breakthrough in the research and development of rotary engines. In the age of electrification and in a carbon-neutral society, we promise to keep delivering attractive cars that excite customers with our 'challenger spirit.'"
We need to be realistic about what that means, considering rotaries of old weren't all that efficient. They also had issues with hydrocarbon emissions, which obviously won't fly today as governments across the globe crack down on car companies. But that's surely why Mazda has gathered three dozen of its sharpest minds to extend the rotary's lifespan (and electric vehicles' battery range).
The future of Mazda sports cars might not braaap like they used to, but there's still a lot to be hopeful about. Imagine if they can get one of these suckers burning hydrogen or something of the sort. It isn't all bleak, my friends, especially if there's a sliver of a chance that we'll see the Iconic SP Concept inform production models in our lifetimes.
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