New model catering to demands of changing U.S. market.
Late to the EV game, Mazda is finally ready to show its hand, the automaker today offering a first look at its first battery-powered car, the MX-30. And it’s just the beginning, the Hiroshima-based manufacturer says.
The crossover will be offered in several versions, one marking the revival of the brand’s once-popular rotary engine which, in the Mazda MX-30, will serve as a range extender. The automaker also has both a larger plug-in hybrid CUV in the works, as well as a more conventional hybrid model.
“Mazda is preparing for the fast-changing U.S. market demands by taking a multi-solution approach to electrification,” Jeff Guyton, president of Mazda North American Operations, said in a statement ahead of the MX-30’s Wednesday unveiling.
Mazda’s powerplant offerings
Mazda has been one of the more reluctant automakers when it comes to electrification, preferring to stick with ever more efficient variations on its SkyActiv technology, including the –D and –X packages. The SkyActiv-D, no surprise, is a diesel. The SkyActiv-X is a breakthrough technology using what’s roughly described as a Homogenous Charge Compression Engine. Think of it as a system that delivers diesel-like efficiency but runs on less expensive gasoline.
But the reality of a new era of emissions and mileage mandates finally caught up with the company, and it is rushing to make up for lost time as puts that “multi-solution approach” into play.
The new MX-30 shares the same platform as the now-familiar CX-30. Mazda first previewed a hybrid version of the MX-30 last August. The “mild” hybrid utilizes a 2.0-liter version of the Mazda SkyActiv-G gas engine paired with an electric motor assist system, and went on sale in Japan last autumn.
Electric power and performance
The underlying architecture gives Mazda significant flexibility, as it is now demonstrating with the addition of an all-electric version of the MX-30, as well as a series hybrid. The downside is that it doesn’t make range for a very large lithium-ion battery pack. At 35.5 kilowatt-hours, it’s only slightly larger than the 32.6 kWh pack in the Mini Electric, and about 40% smaller than the pack in the Chevrolet Bolt EV.
Mazda has not said what range the all-electric MX-30 will deliver on batteries. By comparison, the smaller Mini Electric manages just 168 miles per charge.
For those who need more range, however, Mazda confirmed the MX-30 also will be offered with an optional range-extender package. This series design is similar to the original Chevrolet Volt, the gas engine serving solely as a generator to continue powering the crossover’s drivetrain when the battery runs down.
What’s unique is the use of a rotary, rather than piston, engine. This could prove to be a perfect application for the Wankel technology as it is at its most efficient when running at a relatively steady RPM, rather than revving up and down as was the case with vehicles like the old Mazda RX-8 sports car. Essentially, the MX-30 with the range extender can keep going as long as there’s gas in the tank.
And that not only reduces range anxiety, Mazda planners believe, but avoids the challenge of tracking down a place to charge up while on the road.
That said, Mazda claims the lithium-ion pack can be charged to 80% of capacity in about 36 minutes using a public fast charger. The automaker formed an alliance with ChargePoint and will announce a deal at a later date that is expected to include some free charging.
The MX-30 features a single electric motor mounted on the front axle making 144 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque.
Design features and language
The design of the MX-30 picks up on Mazda’s Kodo design language shared with other current models, including the CX-30. The look isn’t likely to blare “electric vehicle,” though the automaker has taken obvious steps to reduce wind drag, such as using a sealed “grille.” EVs simply don’t need much air to cool their batteries and motors.
Borrowing a page from the RX-8, the new battery-electric car features “freestyle doors” that swing extremely wide to make access for passengers and cargo easier. The back doors are also hinged in the rear.