Mazda’s view on electric motoring
The small and independent Japanese car manufacturer, Mazda, is presenting its first battery-electric vehicle (BEV) at the Tokyo Motor Show next week. Mazda stands for an original multi-solution approach to the energy transition problem.
Apart from the transition to (kinds of) electrical sustainable energy, Mazda wants to keep its “pursuit of driving joy.” In its plan for the next ten years (‘sustainable zoom-zoom 2030’), it wants to pay attention to the global earth, to society, and to people who live on/in it.
Life Cycle Analysis
To have a good idea of the ecological footprint of a vehicle, one should not only look at exhaust gases while in function, but also at the environmental impact when produced (known as well-to-wheel analysis) or even better to the entire lifecycle (from raw material to recycling). The latter is called Life Cycle Analysis or LCA.
Mazda is using LCA to come to its present strategy. It implies that the company chooses for smaller batteries (less pollution, lower cost). They word it like this: “batteries have to be as big as necessary but also as small as possible.”
Multiple Electrification Technologies
That’s the reason why Mazda is not only aiming at BEVs. In the future, the manufacturer will still offer its innovative SkyActiv X technology for ICE and apart from that BEVs, BEVs with a range extender, plug-in hybrids or full hybrids.
Where the aid of an ICE engine is needed for electric propulsion, Mazda will also use an original path. The engine/generator adjacent to the electromotor will be a rotary engine. It is compact, light, space-saving, and can run on gas, LPG, CNG, and even hydrogen.
Mazda’s European head of advanced engineering, Christian Schultze, is also believing in synthetic fuels. They also can bring their part of the solution, always considering the LCA approach as the leading perspective.
Testing the e-TPV
Before the real new EV is being shown at the Tokyo Motor Show next week, we had the chance to briefly test-drive the electric TPV or technical proof vehicle, an EV prototype including all the new EV technology under a ‘common’ CX 30 hull.
The new EV platform includes a 355 V electric system with a synchronous electric motor developing 105 kW and 265 Nm of torque. The battery pack has a capacity of 35,5 kWh. We didn’t get an idea yet of consumption or range.
Mazda wants its vehicles and drivers to live harmoniously together ( ‘Jinba Itai’). Hence the attention for driving pleasure and the concern that ‘normal’ people don’t feel lost in an EV. So they want their BEV to behave naturally and consistent, while braking, steering, and accelerating.
That’s the reason why they integrated a sound system in the car that lightly mimics the acceleration of a ‘normal’ ICE vehicle, while regenerative braking will be modulable so that people don’t feel too overwhelmed coming from a traditional car.
During our short test drive, the ‘disguised’ CX 30 EV prototype drove nicely and comfortably through the outskirts of Frankfurt. On the highway, it obtained a top speed of 140 km/hour, and the progression in urban zones was smooth and discrete. The objective is that it can be driven by anyone without having to adapt too much.
Concerning range anxiety related to the size of the battery, Schultze cited to recent studies. The University of Dresden has done a study among new EV drivers and has seen that range anxiety usually disappears after five weeks.
People change their mobility behavior, or they still have another car. Another study of the Fraunhofer institute tells us that the optimum size of a battery pack is the one providing 150 km of range when CO2 and environment are your first preoccupations.
If people are still feeling anxious about such a range, they can choose for the range extender or hybrid solution, says Mazda. But in urban and suburban areas, most people don’t need a more significant range, mainly because the charging infrastructure will still improve.