The on-again, off-again rebirth of the rotary engine appears to be on again – but not exactly how we expected.

    A new report from Best Car Web in Japan reveals Mazda could be working on a hydrogen-powered rotary engine.

    Unlike the hydrogen cars we’re familiar with, the report doesn’t point to a fuel-cell setup where pressurised hydrogen is used to create electricity that power a motor.

    Instead, it’s about burning hydrogen like petrol or diesel to power the rotary engine.

    Mazda has been investigating a hydrogen-powered rotary since the early 1990s, and actually put a hydrogen RX-8 into limited production in the 2000s.

    Toyota recently revealed a three-cylinder Corolla racer that burned hydrogen instead of petrol for (almost) zero-emissions motoring.

    While the combustion of hydrogen creates only water vapour, the lubricants used in the engine aren’t quite so clean.

    As for what the hydrogen rotary might power?

    We haven’t seen a properly hot Mazda since the 3 MPS died in 2013, but a new trademark suggests the Japanese brand is finally going to give enthusiasts a car to celebrate.

    A Japanese filing unearthed by reveals Mazda has trademarked a new R brand, complete with a stylised logo all of its own.

    Using the R brand would be a departure from the norm for Mazda, which has previously used MPS, RX, and MazdaSpeed badging for its performance cars.

    It did, however, recently use the R360 coupe in a range of images to celebrate its 100th Anniversary. Is Mazda preparing an homage?

    Mazda has flirted with the idea of bringing back the rotary for a number of years. After killing the RX-8, it released the RX-Vision concept in 2015 pointing to a sports car for a new era.

    After the RX-Vision came the virtual RX-Vision GT3 Concept “powered by the next-generation rotary engine ‘Skyactiv-R’, a dream that Mazda wants to bring to life in the future”.

    It wasn’t an outright commitment to a reborn RX-7, but it’s the strongest indication Mazda has given it will use the rotary as more than just a range-extender.

    Speaking of range extenders, Mazda has previously said it’s going to use its rotary engine to give the battery-powered MX-30 a range boost.

    The range-extender MX-30 SUV will make its global debut early in 2022, program director Tomiko Takeuchi has previously confirmed.

    “The EV model using the rotary engine is going to be introduced in the early part of 2022,” Ms Takeuchi told CarExpert.

    “When it comes to EVs, there is always this range anxiety. Therefore, we would like to introduce this EV model using the rotary engine as the range extender to the markets where such a thing is necessary,” Ms Takeuchi said.

    Scott Collie

    Scott Collie is an automotive journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Scott studied journalism at RMIT University and, after a lifelong obsession with everything automotive, started covering the car industry shortly afterwards. He has a passion for travel, and is an avid Melbourne Demons supporter.

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