(Mazda)

Mazda teasing the return of the rotary engine

Mazda is spinning up something.

The automaker has announced that it will be unveiling its first electric vehicle at the Tokyo Motor Show in October, but it may come with a twist.

The automaker’s Chinese arm posted a cryptic message to the Weibo social media platform on September 20 that suggests a new rotary engine is on the way. The Wankel was a mainstay of the brand for decades before being discontinued in 2012 due to issues with fuel economy and emissions and is not currently offered by any automaker.

(Mazda)

The post features an image of the first car Mazda ever built with a rotary engine, the 1967 Cosmo, sitting in front of a cutaway of an engine. According to Autocar, the accompanying text says “rotor engines make the world more beautiful,” and it adds that there is a countdown to something happening on Sept. 26.

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Last year Mazda confirmed plans to use a new rotary engine as a range-extender for a plug-in hybrid model. So if you put the two pieces of this puzzle together, we’re likely to see one of those revealed alongside the pure electric vehicle in Tokyo, if not sooner than that.

In this type of application, the engine doesn't propel the vehicle directly, but simply works as a generator to provide electricity for an electric motor when the battery runs low. Proponents of this design say the smooth-running nature of the rotary is better suited for it than the piston engines used in cars like the Chevrolet Volt.

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