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More details emerge about Mazda's rotary range extender

It could be flexible enough to pass any emissions regulations in the world.

A top Mazda engineer has confirmed more details about the company's upcoming rotary engine range extender. Mazda's unique motor design, once used to power high-performance sports cars, will now work as part of a hybrid engine.

Speaking to Australia's Drive at the Geneva Motor show last week, powertrain lead Ichiro Hirose revealed that the new rotary engine was so flexible, it could help Mazda curb emissions in countries with even the most stringent limits on emissions.

Because the rotary engine is much more compact than a traditional piston engine, the setup lends itself to packaging in a wide variety of platforms. "With this combination you can vary the amount of battery and also the amount of fuel tank supply,” Hirose explained. "What that allows us to do is, depending on the ratio between the two, is that we can have a derivative that can work more like a plugin hybrid.”

It can operate as almost a pure battery-electric, using the rotary only in case the battery runs out of juice, or as a series-hybrid, where the rotary helps provide the motive force.

However, there, appears to be one hurdle left before the rotary can return to production. They need to figure out how to get the catalytic converter working as soon as the rotary begins turning, to reduce as many emissions as possible.

If they can figure that out, Hirose says the system is flexible and adaptable enough to pass regulations in a number of markets, including the US's. He's even coined a term for it: XEV. Perhaps this isn't the rotary return RX-7 fans were hoping for, but it sounds like a promising technology nonetheless.

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