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Is Mazda working on a new Wankel-powered sports car?

US patents recently uploaded online suggest so

The beautiful RX-Vision concept allegedly had a 'Skyactiv-R' engine under the hood. PHOTO FROM MAZDA

Mazda is famous for many things. Winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a Wankel-engine race car being one. Creating one of the world’s most successful sports cars with the Miata being another.

Now imagine if those two things were to be combined in a Wankel-powered hybrid sports car. A patent uncovered in the US hints at the possibility that we might be seeing such a vehicle at some point in the future.

The patent says that the rotary engine will be used for higher load situations, which is a good thing. GRAPHIC FROM US PATENT OFFICE

Behind US Patent Number 11,643,065 and the relatively unassuming description of “a vehicle drive system that uses a motor for cruising and a battery” hides what sure looks like the blueprint for a rotary-powered hybrid sports car. The proportions in the attached sketches even make it look a bit like a new 370Z or maybe even a Miata, but all that is, of course, pure speculation at this point.

What we do know from the patent (filed in 2021 but only just published online recently by the patent office) is that the rotary engine is placed at the front of the car. There’s no word on how many rotors it has, but we do learn details of the attached electrical components.

The hybrid system uses a mix of electric motors, with two 17kW/23hp induction ones at the front and one 25kW/36hp permanent magnet synchronous one at the rear. Combining these different types of electric motors is an interesting move as both have different torque curves.

These four 48V cells could combine to become two 96V modules if the extra oomph is needed. GRAPHIC FROM US PATENT OFFICE

The patent furthermore describes a variable voltage system that seems to deploy four 48V modules in a pretty unique way. While cruising along, the modules act as normal 48V batteries and feed the electric motors with enough juice to drive around at normal speeds.

If a bit more oomph is needed, electric switches instantly change the setup and reconfigure the batteries into two pairs of 96V modules. This setup, so claims Mazda, requires fewer components and therefore saves weight.

The Vision Study concept is the closest thing we would imagine this would look like. PHOTOS FROM MAZDA

It’s not known if this layout will be deployed as a plug-in hybrid or self-charging setup, but we gather from the patent that the electric motors are prioritized at lower speeds, with the Wankel engine seemingly reserved for situations that call for more power.

At the moment, there’s no word if we will ever see this newly developed setup in a road car, but the mere thought of an even more powerful and nimble new Miata with such an all-wheel-drive hybrid setup is exciting.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.