Mazda Taiki Concept
Mazda Taiki Concept Mazda

Mazda's rotary sports cars have become the stuff of legends. However, as Mazda ceased RX-8 production last month and as the auto industry embraces small displacement inline-four turbocharged engines for its combination of power output and efficiency, industry observers wondered if the end of the RX-8 marked the end of the rotary engine production car as well.

Under Mazda's latest SkyActiv technology offensive, the small Japanese automaker is focusing on a new development model that pursues fuel efficiency technology across the board. Mazda will develop everything from lightweight architectures, aerodynamics, diesels, and gasoline range-extended electric cars. Given a rotary engine's inherent thirst of fuel and oil, it may seem that the engine has no place in Mazda's future.

According to Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi, the automaker remains very committed to rotary development. During the Moscow Motor Show, Yamanouchi explained that rotary engines are at its most efficient at low RPM or under constant load. That said, Mazda is looking into applying rotary powerplants as range-extending engines similar in concept to the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. The rotary engine will function as a generator to charge the battery, which would then transfer that energy to the electric motors that drive the vehicle.

Despite Mazda's latest shift in attention towards efficiency, Yamanouchi also says that a next-gen rotary sports car isn't out of the question either.

Beyond the proposed rotary plug-in hybrid, Mazda has already launched its initial series of SkyActiv models including the 2012 Mazda3, CX-5, and the latest all-new 2014 Mazda6. Details on upcoming SkyActiv models are scarce but sources suggest a rotary plug-in hybrid will arive some time next year, although the initial release will be limited to leasing options exclusively in Japan.

[Source: Autocar]