Mazda’s rotary engine revival is not a secret any more; the company officially confirmed earlier this year that there’ll be a Wankel engine-powered range extender EV due sometime next year. But according to a report from Japanese automotive publication Best Car, Mazda isn’t stopping there just yet – they’re also developing a hydrogen-burning rotary engine to be used in the successor to the RX-8.
Citing no sources, the publication writes that Mazda has carried on developing the rotary engine, even after production for the RX-8 ended in 2012. While development post RX-8 focused around the range-extender tech that we’ll soon see being implemented on the MX-30, racing against the hydrogen-powered Toyota Corolla in the Super Taikyu endurance race has reignited Mazda’s passion for high-performance hydrogen-powered rotary engines.
We say “reignited”, because it’s not the first time Mazda has experimented with hydrogen-powered rotary engines. The Japanese company first introduced a hydrogen rotary concept way back in 1991 with the HR-X, and in 2003, they even leased hydrogen-powered RX-8s to customers, and supplied 30 units to Norway’s national hydrogen project, Hynor.
According to Best Car, rotary engines are particularly suited for hydrogen combustion, due to the use of rotors instead of pistons, which eliminated “heat spots” in the engine. These heat spots are a particular pain point for hydrogen combustion engines, due to the fuel’s tendency to spontaneously combust.
There are no details yet on the engine’s output capabilities, as its development is most likely still in the embryonic stage. No words too on which car the hydrogen rotary engine will ultimately power, though the consensus in the community seems to be for a sports coupe based on the Mazda RX-Vision concept unveiled in 2015.
The report does however state that it’s likely the hydrogen-burning rotary engine will also feature some form of electric assistance. This is particularly due to the difficulty in extracting power from hydrogen without a large, highly-pressurised tank.
“If [we] decide to do it, I think the prototype will be completed within three years. The most likely system is a system that combines an electric turbo,” an anonymous Mazda official told Best Car. However, making a prototype is the easy part; the challenge is to find a strong-enough business case to justify building the car.
Ultimately, the project will only be green-lit if there are enough people willing to buy the car, which Best Car says will most likely be an expensive and limited edition model. Will you be interested in a hydrogen-powered Mazda RX-8 successor? Let us know in the comments below!