To many purists, Mazda will forever be linked to the rotary engine that the company first launched in the 1967 Cosmo Sport and later in a series of RX-badged sports cars.
Throughout the years, rotary engines have played a significant part in the company’s history, including powering a Le Mans winner, and earlier this year the engine made a comeback, as a range extender for the MX30 compact electric crossover, though not in the U.S. market.
But might we see a more powerful rotary in a modern RX? The biggest hurdle remains getting the fuel-thirsty engine to comply with the strict emissions regulations while also boosting output. Mazda’s last rotary sports car, the RX-8, had only 232 hp but a V-8-like thirst.
Patent activity suggests Mazda is looking at hybrid technology as a possible solution for a car with a rotary directly powering the wheels.
As first spotted by The Drive, a patent filed by Mazda with the United States Patent and Trademark Office was published this week and details a hybrid system where a front-mounted rotary engine is paired with an electric motor, with the two power units sending drive to a transaxle and ultimately the rear wheels. Two more electric motors, described as in-wheel hub motors, complete the powertrain, and turn it into an all-wheel-drive setup.
A similar patent surfaced last year but the latest provides a lot more detail about the electric side of the powertrain. The two in-wheel motors are described as 17-kw (23-hp) induction motors while the motor paired with the rotary is described as a permanent magnet synchronous motor with 25 kw (36 hp).
Mazda hasn’t made any mention of plans to launch a modern rotary sports car, though there have been plenty of hints over the years, culminating with the reveal of the RX-Vision concept in 2015. All of the patent activity suggests that Mazda hasn’t given up on the idea of a rotary sports car, even in a world of ever tightening emissions standards.