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Mazda EVs might hold the secret for RX-8 successor

Mazda's range-extended EVs could yet provide the catalyst for a future rotary-engined sports car

By Sam Sheehan / Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Who'd have thought it? A successor to the Mazda RX-8 is now looking more likely than ever thanks to advancements made in - get this - range-extended electric vehicles. Turns out the development of small capacity Wankel engines that will be used to charge the batteries of Mazda's upcoming electric cars could quite easily lead to the creation of a full-sized sports car powertrain - so long as we buy lots of them.

Mazda vice president of communications in Europe and full-time car enthusiast, Wojciech Halarewicz, told PH that a new rotary-engined sports car was a "dream" of his that was suddenly getting closer, perhaps unintentionally, as investment in Wankel technology was being ramped up ahead of the launch of Mazda's first EV in 2020.

"We know that electric cars will be important in 2020 to 2025, but also that EVs are not the answer for everything," he said. "Combustion engines will still play a part, and if you asked me if I want a rotary sports car at the top of the range, I'd say yes I'd love to have one. Many of my colleagues would too. So it's a matter of keeping the sales growth going to make sure we can do one in the future."

Mazda previewed its dream of a rotary-engined halo car with the RX-Vision concept back in 2015. But the fallout from the Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal meant the project was shelved as the manufacturer's focus turned to developing electric car technology in the face of increasingly stringent emission limits.

Scant consolation for the rotary engine fans who've been without a Wankel-powered Mazda since the RX-8 went off sale in 2012. That model used a 1.3-litre motor which produced up to 228hp and span to a memorable 9,000rpm in standard trim - although the unit also became notorious for its fuel consumption and a comparatively short life span.

Mazda's been hard at work ironing out those issues, however, and it firmly believes the benefits of the Wankel design - including its very high horsepower-per-litre figure - are ideal for electric vehicle range extenders. Ironic then that it might be the tech developed for the sake of batteries and electric motors that eventually secures the future of an RX-8 successor.

And even if that sports car itself were to require some form of electrification to enable it to meet future emissions standards, it would surely be a price worth paying for the long heralded return of the rotary engine. All we need to do now is encourage everyone else to go and buy one of Mazda's future EV models. Simples!

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