In the “It Had To Happen” department, Mazda finally says it will use its rotary engine as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) generator. It also says it will deliver a pure EV by 2020. But is it too little, too late after downplaying batteries for over a decade?
Mazda Warms Up To Batteries, Plans Rotary As PHEV Generator
A decade ago, while the world was crumbling and revealing a drunken automotive world, pants down, unprepared, and paying the price of beer for champaign, a few companies staunchly held onto gasoline and diesel engines among the ruins of their follies.
Audi, Toyota, and Mazda were among the loudest anti-EV companies in 2009. According to the people I knew at Mazda then, the company was happy it was on its own again and could finally focus on making its platform as efficient as it could. This led to Mazda’s Skyactiv-X philosophy that meant lightening the car, reducing friction, and heat dissipation. That lofty goal landed the seriously revamped Mazda 6, followed by the 3, etc. But batteries? Never.
This week, Mazda announced that its rotary engine could be used as a generator for a PHEV platform — as we requested a decade ago. And finally, a Mazda EV will finally be here within the next two years. I do agree that Mazda can do one thing well — it can engineer great cars. Now, it needs to prove that with electricity.
In its press release, the company announced it will continue to focus on maximizing the efficiency of its internal combustion engine (ICE) for its next generation of SKYACTIV-X gasoline and diesel engines. It also announced good news with the launch its first true EV in 2020.
Welcome Mazda To The EV World … Sort Of
Mazda says it expects mobility will be predominantly ICE based with just some electric support — 95% non-electric cars by 2030. In other words, Mazda says it will only produce 5% pure, true EVs by 2030. It clarifies that: “Mazda is committed to reducing its corporate average ‘Well-to-Wheel’ CO2 emissions to 50% of 2010 levels by 2030, and to 90% by 2050. But the company is also committed to the principal of the right solution at the right time and -since energy availability and automotive power source fitness vary from region to region- in the right place.”
Clearly, Mazda still believes in the diversify of fuel options, which include compressed natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, hydrogen, as well as recyclable liquid fuels such as biofuels from microalgae growth. We can always say, “the more the merrier,” but is the company just that far behind that it doesn’t have anything else to argue? Of course, 5% EV by 2030 is far lower than what other carmakers are reporting. But if it doesn’t have competitive electric cars, what else can it say?
On a personal side, I wonder if the electric Mazda will be sporty or have more sedan-like ambitions?
Here is the complete press release:
MAZDA ROTARY ENGINE TO RETURN AS EV RANGE-EXTENDER
- Unique rotary engine technology to power EV range-extender
- Compact rotary engine packaging key to multiple EV solutions
Leverkusen, 2 October 2018. Mazda will launch its first Electric Vehicles (EV) in 2020 as part of its ‘Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030’ long-term technology development programme.
Unique technology approach
Mazda will initially launch two battery EVs. One powered solely by battery, the other pairing a battery with Mazda’s small, lightweight and exceptionally quiet rotary engine as a range-extender.
The range-extender will recharge the battery when necessary to increase the vehicle’s driving range, eliminating the range anxiety which continues to trouble a high percentage of battery EV users.
The rotary engine’s small size and high power output make multiple electrification technology solutions possible via a shared packaging layout. Taking advantage of the rotary engine’s compatibility with gaseous fuels, the rotary-powered range extender is designed to also burn liquefied petroleum gas and provide a source of electricity in emergencies.
Mazda Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030
Expecting that internal combustion engines combined with some form of electrification will account for 95% of the vehicles it produces in 2030 (with battery electric vehicles accounting for the remaining 5%), Mazda will continue to focus on maximising the efficiency of the internal combustion engine, as exemplified by its new, new-generation SKYACTIV-X petrol engine, which combusts through compression ignition.
Mazda is committed to reducing its corporate average ‘Well-to-Wheel’ CO2 emissions to 50% of 2010 levels by 2030, and to 90% by 2050. But the company is also committed to the principal of the right solution at the right time and -since energy availability and automotive power source fitness vary from region to region- in the right place.
Clearly, the electric power generation system in any given region determines how much an EV can contribute to ‘Well-to-Wheel’ reductions in CO2 emissions. And with CO2-emitting thermal power generation still globally predominant, a goal to reduce those emissions is likely to diversify fuel options in the immediate future.
In addition to alternative fuels including compressed natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas and even hydrogen, the automotive industry is also researching the viability of recyclable liquid fuels such as biofuels from microalgae growth.
Mazda considers the development of the latter critical to achieving the carbon neutrality of cars powered by the internal combustion engine, and is already involved in joint research projects and studies with the Tokyo Institute of technology and Hiroshima University as part of an ongoing, industry-academia-government collaboration.
Mazda hopes to further the contributions of its ‘Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030’ vision to society by sending EVs with the range-extender to areas affected by natural disasters, providing LPG-generated electricity for those in need.
Ever committed to the pursuit of driving pleasure, Mazda will also be exploiting the advantages of electric drive in combination with the company’s proprietary technologies to produce EVs that not only comply with ever tightening environmental restrictions, but also fulfil its ongoing commitment to Hashiru Yorokobi -the ‘exhilaration of driving’- through its Jinba Ittai driver and car as one design and engineering philosophy.
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