It’s official: Mazda will soon sell a rotary engine in the United States, though perhaps not in the format we were all hoping for. In an interview with The Detroit Bureau, Mazda North American Operations president Jeff Guyton confirmed that the brand’s MX-30 crossover, originally bound only for Japan and Europe, will come to the U.S. as an electric vehicle with a rotary-engine range extender. “For the U.S. market,” Guyton told TDB, “the range extender would be more appropriate.”
We asked Mazda for more information, and the company confirmed: “Mazda is committed to continuing to innovate and delivering an engaging driving experience. With that in mind, we can confirm we will bring our first electric vehicle, the MX-30, to the U.S. market. The vehicle will be available as both a fully electric model and a series plug-in-hybrid, featuring a rotary engine. Additional information about availability will be released at the appropriate time.”
Mazda introduced the MX-30 at the 2019 Tokyo Auto Show. Though it rides on the same platform as the Mazda 3 and the CX-30, the MX-30 has a more rakish profile than Mazda’s other SUVs, as well as rear-hinged doors that remind us of the dearly-departed RX-8. The MX-30 EV’s range is 124 miles on the European WLTP cycle, which explains the need for a range extender to lengthen its tether. Reportedly, Mazda is looking to double the MX-30 EV’s range with rotary power.
This is an idea Mazda has been working on for some time—back in 2013 Mazda built a small number of Demio (Mazda2) EVs with a rotary-engine range extender. The Wankel engine’s low-vibration characteristics (“Piston engine goes boing, boing, boing, but the Mazda goes Hmmmmm!”) make it well suited to an electric car, as does its compact size, power density, and low weight. On the Demio EV, the whole package—including engine, generator, and a 2.6-gallon fuel tank—fit neatly under the trunk floor.
Mazda also has a “mild” hybrid version of the MX-30, which is already on sale in Japan and is built around the 2.0-liter “SkyActiv-G” engine. The MX-30 EV, meanwhile, will debut in Europe as a pure EV, and the range extender will follow in 2022. What we don’t know is the specific timing for the U.S. model, though we’d be surprised if it’s very far behind the European launch. And what about the mild-hybrid version? We think it’d make sense for Mazda’s U.S. lineup, but Mazda says it has not been confirmed for any market outside of Japan.
Guyton also mentioned something we already knew, which is that Mazda is working on a new hybrid crossover designed in conjunction with Toyota. Mazda and Toyota are scheduled to open a jointly-operated plant in Alabama this year where the new hybrid will be built. We know Mazda plans to use Toyota hybrid technology, but whether the new Mazda SUV will be a home-grown design or a rebadged Toyota remains to be seen. Also in the works from Mazda? A straight-six engine.
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