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Mazda to launch electric car with rotary engine in 2020

Signature technology said to double driving range

Mazda plans to have its entire lineup feature electrification technology by 2030.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Mazda Motor will roll out an electric vehicle equipped with a range-extending rotary engine in 2020, part of its plan to transition to a fully hybrid and electric lineup, the company said Tuesday.

The compact, high-output rotary engine can recharge the car's battery when needed, doubling its driving distance, according to the Japanese automaker, though no precise figures were provided. The engine -- a signature Mazda technology -- also generates minimal vibration, helping the car run more quietly.

The new model, and a battery-only vehicle set to debut around the same time, represent Mazda's first electric offerings. The automaker provided no details about where the new cars will be available, with Executive Vice President Kiyoshi Fujiwara, who oversees research and development, saying only that "we've made preparations so we can launch them anywhere."

Mazda aims to reduce its average "well to wheel" carbon dioxide emissions -- meaning at every step of power generation, starting with fuel extraction -- by 90% from 2010 levels by 2050, President Akira Marumoto said. The automaker's entire lineup will feature some amount of electrification technology by 2030, he said.

But Mazda expects fully battery-powered vehicles to account for only 5%, with conventional hybrids -- which use an electric motor to support the main gasoline or diesel engine -- likely to make up much of the remainder. The goal is to improve the efficiency of conventional vehicles and meet increasingly strict environmental regulations.

"Mazda will continue to focus on maximizing the efficiency of the internal combustion engine," the company said in a news release Tuesday. Marumoto also stressed that Mazda will keep developing technology for conventional engines.

The new electric models were developed in-house. The joint electric-car technology venture set up last year by Mazda, Toyota Motor and Denso is not expected to bear fruit until at least 2020, according to Mazda.

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