Engines

Mazda considering adding a rotary engine to one of its SUVs

The Mazda CX-30 might soon be adding a rotary engine to its list of powertrain options.

Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations Inc.

It's the words that the little voice in the back of the mind of Mazda enthusiasts keeps saying: rotary engine. While most of said enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting the always-rumored return of the RX-8 (not that it's happening anytime soon) and it's rotary engine, the first vehicle that could possibly get the engine isn't a new RX-8. It's the CX-30.

Tucked into a press release designed for European media outlets celebrating the rotary engine, are two lines that stand out:

"Later, the company developed a prototype Mazda2 EV with a small single-rotor engine used as a range extender. A similar system could find its way onto the Mazda MX-30, a brand new battery electric crossover SUV arriving at dealerships this year."

In the production SUV, it's likely that the rotary engine would serve in an alternate power plant capacity. This is similar to the way BMW has used the i3 model with the available range extender, which pairs a 0.647-liter two-cylinder engine with the car's battery to achieve a range of 200 miles.

The big question is, will this version of the car come to America? Mazda has committed to adding plug-in electric models to its lineup. However, the expediency with which they arrive in the U.S. marketplace may be slowed by the recent move of the Trump administration to roll back an Obama-era law that pushes automakers to produce more fuel efficient vehicles. Regulations are more stringent in Europe so it makes sense that Mazda would first turn its attention there.

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First-year Ford F-150 Lightning production numbers doubled
Ford

Ford has begun serial production of the new F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck, marking what could be one of the most important days in recent automotive history. The first trucks rolled off the assembly line at Ford's Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Michigan today, so America's best-selling truck has finally gone electric. Ford wants to sell two million EVs per year by 2026 and have half of its global sales volume to be electric by 2030.

Ford F-150 LightningPast meets future: Ford's new electric pickup will be the F-150 Lightningautomotivemap.com

Ford has seen extreme demand for the trucks, with 200,000 reservations since the books opened. To deliver, the automaker plans to increase production to an annual rate of 150,000 units by next year, which involved huge investments in the Rouge Center and created hundreds of jobs. Ford's total investment for the F-150 Lightning crests $1 billion across Michigan alone, and has created 1,700 jobs across various facilities in the state.

Ford F-150 LightningThe first production trucks left the factory today.
Ford Motor Company

Though the Lightning starts around $40,000, the most mainstream models will cost much more than that. The F-150 Lightning Pro, while affordable, is a stripped-down truck intended for commercial buyers. It's still a forward-looking electric truck with amazing capabilities, but it lacks much of the creature comforts and features that everyday drivers expect. Higher trims get the latest driver assistance features, including BlueCruise, which is Ford's semi-autonomous hands-free driving assistant. A 12-inch touchscreen is standard, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and more.

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Electric pickup truck

Ford F-150 Lightning could get tank turn

Ford patented a tank turn feature in late 2020.

Ford

The F-150 Lightning is packed with cool tech and capability, but we're learning that Ford has even bigger plans for its first electric pickup. Inside EVs found an exciting document on the Lightning Owners Forum that shows ford applied to patent a tank turn feature like the one we saw Rivian pull off a few years ago, where the truck spins around a center point using its electric motors. Rivian's tank turn feature still hasn't made it to market, so it's possible that Ford beats them to the punch.

Ford F-150 LightningTank turn allows the truck to spin while almost completely stationary.Ford

Ford applied for the patent in October 2020, but it's just now making its way out. In the document, Ford gives an example of how it could work: "Methods, apparatus, systems and articles of manufacture are disclosed to perform a tank turn. An example vehicle includes a first wheel and a second wheel, the first wheel located on an end of a first axle, the second wheel located on an end of the second axle, the end of the first axle opposite to the end of the second axle, a first suspension coupled to the first wheel, a second suspension coupled to the second wheel, and a controller to drive the first axle in a first direction, drive the second axle in the second direction and decrease a first suspension load of the first suspension and a second suspension load of the second suspension."

As Inside EVs points out, Rivian's tank turn feature employs the R1 T's quad-motor setup to drive each wheel individually. The F-150 Lightning doesn't currently have a four-motor choice and instead offers two motors – one on each axle. It's important to note that Rivian patented tank turn and showed that it could work, but there hasn't yet been a production vehicle that offers the capability. Toyota filed a patent in 2019, but again it's just paperwork at this point.

Ford F-150 LightningNo automaker has brought tank turn to production yet.

To achieve the turn, Ford has a few options. The most obvious would be to offer a quad-motor upgrade in future model years. It's unclear if such a feature is in the works or if Ford plans to provide beefier versions of the Lightning, such as a Raptor variant with upgraded motors. The automaker could also design gearing to reverse the wheels on one side while the others drive forward, or it could use braking to lock the wheels and tighten the turning radius.

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