Today, major car manufacturers have geared up to produce electric vehicles with range extending more than 400 km on a fully charged battery and are able to out perform many internal combustion engine sports cars without emitting a single molecule of carbon dioxide. Not only that they are the next step in vehicle performance, weaning off fossil fuels is a necessity due to the urgent need to drastically reduce the emissions of greenhouse gasses which is the main contributing factor to global warming.

Mazda's Rotary Engine Returns As EV Range Extender

This is especially evident with the drastic changes in auto-related environmental policies over the last 12 months; the U.K. and France has made it clear to ban sales of vehicles driven solely by the internal combustion engine by 2040, the Chinese government is enacting its New Energy Vehicle (NEV) policies from 2019 onwards. And in the U.S., despite having withdrew from The Paris Agreement, California have introduced Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) programs, and recently there have been new moves to revisit the regulations.

Mazda's Rotary Engine Returns As EV Range Extender

In Japan, the Strategic Commission for the New Automotive Era (interim report), an initiative by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry had recently released its long-term goals to achieve the “Well-to-Wheel Zero Emissions” Challenge by 2050. This means that Japanese auto manufacturers must deliver “world-leading environmental performance” by the end of 2050, and must aim to slash greenhouse gasses emission by passenger cars by 90 percent. But besides the regulatory changes, the impacts of climate change are taking place including record-breaking heat waves, erratic weathers patterns and the increased hurricane activity, which are said to have caused by climate change.

Mazda's Rotary Engine Returns As EV Range Extender

With that in mind, Mazda has announced its electrification and connectivity strategies around its holistic human-centred vehicle development philosophy with the target of electrifying 95% of vehicles built by 2030. “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030” is the company’s long-term vision to preserve earth’s natural environmental balance, enriching society with its upcoming suite of connectivity solutions and to continue providing driving enjoyment to its customers leading up to the year 2030.

Mazda's Rotary Engine Returns As EV Range Extender

During the announcement, there were many little hints of Mazda’s direction in the next 12 years, and are on track with the roadmap which they had set. In 2019, Mazda will introduce the next-generation Skyactiv-X gasoline engine, its first hybrid powertrain, new Mazda Connect and the new Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture vehicle platform will see the light of day most likely in the upcoming all-new Mazda3 styled in the 2nd evolution of the company’s Kodo Design language.

The company is also very well aware of the emergence of CASE – Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric – that are making steady progress with new players entering the automotive industry. To Mazda, the spread of these new technologies and services will enable more efficient, safe and unrestricted mobility, potentially providing new value to its cars and society.

Mazda's Rotary Engine Returns As EV Range Extender

What makes a car near carbon-neutral is not by what it emits at the tail end, but rather where the car gets its fuel. Well-to-Wheel basically means from the oil wells to the car’s wheel, and how that car is made and driven, all the way to the end of its lifecycle. Mazda plans to achieve a 90% reduction versus 2010 levels in its corporate average “well-to-wheel” carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, which Mazda will include many forms of electrification in all of its production vehicles by 2030.

Mazda's Rotary Engine Returns As EV Range Extender

On that year, 95% of all new Mazda cars that rolls off the assembly line will be xEV – cars that run solely on electricity, plug-in hybrid, hybrid, and fuel cell as defined in the interim report – however they will still have an internal combustion engine as part of the electric powertrain package, while battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will make up the remaining 5%.

The thing is though, the internal combustion engines may not run just on petroleum-based fuels, but also recyclable liquid fuels such as biofuels made from microalgae. Mazda will be collaborating between with industry, academia and government parties to solve relevant technical issues faced.

Mazda's Rotary Engine Returns As EV Range Extender

That said Mazda will develop two battery electric vehicles, one powered solely by battery and another that pairs a battery with a newly developed range extender powered by Mazda’s small, simple, lightweight and exceptionally quiet rotary engine. The range extender will recharge the battery when necessary to effectively increase the vehicle’s driving range, but it is not known whether the rotary engine will provide support to the electric motor directly. One of the main reasons as to why Mazda opted for the rotary engine as a range extender is due to its small size and high power output to make multiple electrification technology solutions possible via a shared packaging layout.

Mazda's Rotary Engine Returns As EV Range Extender

In addition, the rotary-powered range extender is designed with flex fuel capabilities to burn liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) – besides petrol, the engine should be able to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) or hydrogen as well depending where the car is sold – in order to provide a source of electricity during emergencies in disaster effected areas; in such situations, petrol and diesel will be scarce and LPG are more widely available in homes. The Mazda EV system is still currently under development and will be drivable sometime next year.

And what is for sure is that future Mazda models will still provide customers driving enjoyment, one of the core traits, which the brand is known and loved for, and this where GVC (G-Vectoring Control) comes into play.

Mazda's Rotary Engine Returns As EV Range Extender

For BEVs, GVC controls the regenerative braking to ‘vector’ the car around the corner, while providing smooth and precise control while going down hill. For internal combustion engine cars, the new and improved GVC Plus controls the vehicle’s behaviour with braking force and reducing engine torque while providing smooth transitioning of yaw, roll and pitch as featured in the new Mazda CX-5 recently launched in Japan.

Being a company that dares to be different and in line with its human-centered development philosophy, Mazda will develop connectivity technologies that offer and enriching experience to life, connecting people by facilitating the sharing of experiences and feelings through its cars.

Mazda also intends that its future cars can contribute to the solutions of social issues, such as the weakening of interpersonal connections that has accompanied changes in society, by connecting people and society through connectivity technologies. This is achieved by combining digital tools and the power of an automobile to expand the scope of people’s activities.

Mazda's Rotary Engine Returns As EV Range Extender

The company will start testing a mobility service in Miyoshi, Hiroshima this month to trial its ride-sharing services in the coming future. This initiative aims to improve operational efficiency of a local mobility service operated by a non-profit organisation. Basically, it functions more like a pro-bono version of Grab, bringing drivers within and outside the community to promote real life discoveries, experience and growth through human interactions. The company has forged an alliance with Toyota Motor Corporation in developing technologies that connects their customers directly to get data and feedback for future product development, improving quality and customer satisfaction.

Mazda's Rotary Engine Returns As EV Range Extender

“They say that the automotive industry is undergoing a once-in-a-century transformation. At Mazda, we see this as an opportunity to create a new car culture,” said Akira Marumoto, Mazda’s Representative Director, President and CEO. “New trends and technologies in connectivity, autonomy, sharing and electrification offer new possibilities for creating ever more attractive cars. Using new technologies based on our unique human-centered development philosophy, Mazda will, in the spirit of ‘Never Stop Challenging,’ continue to pursue the joy of driving and work to create an emotional connection with customers that rivals the strongest brands in the world.”

[Bryna Au]

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