When Mazda introduced the MX-30 electric crossover, many scratched their heads to the miniscule range on the EV. The Japanese automaker offset the criticism some by offering it as a plug-in hybrid as well.
Now the Japanese automaker is looking for the latest tweaks to help it gain in popularity, using a rotary engine as a range extender.
TheDetroitBureau.com revealed the plan to use the rotary last April. The MX-30 EV, which made its debut in the U.S. in 2021, travels just about 100 miles on a full charge — more than 100 miles less than start of the range for what’s considered the norm for battery-electric vehicles these days.
However, the company showed off the updated MX-30 e-Skyactiv R-EV plug-in hybrid, which will make its debut in Europe this spring.
The MX-30 e-Skyactiv R-EV is a series plug-in hybrid that has an 85-km, or about a 53-mile, battery-electric driving range, which is generally more than enough for drivers. Now it has the ability to use a generator to enable long distance drives. On top of this, the entire driving range is motor-powered.
Why a rotary?
Mazda’s got a long history with rotary engines. It was the primary powerplant for its famous RX sports car for decades and known for delivering decent power and excellent fuel economy in a small package.
The company developed the new rotary engine to work as a generator and positioned it on the same axle as a high-output motor and a generator in the motor room. Mazda then paired this compact electric power unit with a 17.8 kWh lithium-ion battery and a 13-gallon gas tank to achieve the unique series plug-in hybrid system, officials said.
Additionally, the MX-30 e-Skyactiv R-EV will be available in a special edition model: “Edition R.” Edition R vehicles feature black-based exterior and interior trims with Maroon Rouge Metallic, a remake of the roof color of Mazda’s first passenger vehicle, the Mazda R360 Coupe, as an exterior accent color. It also includes exclusive design elements such as a rotor-shaped emblem sewn into the floor mats and embossed on the seat headrests.
The automaker discontinued the rotary in 2012 with the end of the RX-8 sports coupe; however, it’s been “threatening” to bring it back since then.
It’s been sold in Japan and Australia as a mild hybrid, where it uses a standard 2.0-liter 4-cylinder SkyActiv gas engine mated to a 24-volt hybrid system.
But adding a rotary engine rather than the SkyActiv unit used elsewhere lends the vehicle a sporting cache it would otherwise lack and reaffirms the vehicle’s Mazda DNA. It would also attract customers who like the $33,470 MX-30, but are put off by the current vehicle’s 100 miles of range. Other EVs boast more range and a lower price, including the Chevrolet Bolt ($31,500 and 259 miles of range), the Mini Cooper SE Electric Hardtop ($29,900/114 miles), and the Nissan Leaf ($28,425/149 miles).