Mazda’s iconic MX-5 Miata is going electric, although the exact shape it will take is a challenge the automaker is giving itself a few years to figure out. The Japanese automaker unveiled the first details of its EV roadmap earlier this month, with the promise of at least 13 models with some degree of electrification to launch by 2025.
By 2030, all Mazda models will offer some level of electrification, as the company has committed to. Complete EVs would probably only make up about 25% of the lineup, spirit.
While electrified crossovers and SUVs – like the upcoming MX-30 – are one thing, the lingering uncertainty was where it left behind some of Mazda’s most beloved models, particularly the MX-5 Miata. The two-door convertible has been a mainstay of the Mazda lineup for decades, embodying the philosophy of lightness, a small but punchy engine, and as straightforward an approach as possible to steering, gears and suspension.
This is not a formula that is necessarily compatible with electric vehicles, at least not based on today’s technology. For example, today’s EV batteries are generally heavy; Advanced battery technology appears to increase power density, reducing overall weight without sacrificing range, but that would be way too expensive for the traditionally affordable Miata.
Still, electrification is the way to go, and Mazda has confirmed that the MX-5 is no slouch. Japanese site Kuruma-news first reported on the plans, with the automaker confirming that some sort of electrified transmission was planned, but executives declined to give details. Talk to Engine1, Mazda said much the same, but also confirmed that we shouldn’t expect the new car to be part of the first group of electric vehicles.
âMazda is looking to electrify the MX-5 Miata with the goal of having all models have some form of electrification by 2030,â the automaker said in a statement. âWe will work hard to make it a lightweight, affordable and open two-seater sports car to meet customer needs. ”
The most obvious route would be a so-called mild hybrid. Rather than a fully electric Miata, or even with a relatively large battery that could be plugged in to charge it, Mazda could combine a gasoline engine with a smaller battery and an electric motor. Mercedes-Benz has put this approach to good use with its EQ Boost system. A relatively compact battery and electric starter-generator sandwiched between the gasoline engine and transmission are used to add extra power for short periods of time.
The advantage would be that Mazda could tick off its electrification commitment, but without necessarily adding too much weight or cost to the whole. The challenge, however, would be to combine such a system with a manual transmission, something Miata purists are unlikely to be willing to compromise on. Mercedes doesn’t offer an EQ Boost manual, although that doesn’t mean the technology doesn’t exist.
Kia, for example, added a 48V mild hybrid system to its Rio compact car in early 2020, along with its new intelligent manual transmission. This relies on a wire clutch rather than a mechanical linkage, working with the Rio’s mild hybrid starter generator. At the time, the automaker said it was an attempt to both offer the increased frugality of a hybrid, while also satisfying driver demand for a shifter.