Mazda finally gets its EV act together with the MX30 pure electric crossover

Nov 06, 2019

Mazda’s MX30 EV debuted at the Tokyo Auto Show this past October. The company says its first electric vehicle mass-produced for the marketplace is “an expansion of our renowned Kodo design philosophy.” At the same time, it “explores new directions in design," with an “uncompromisingly simple” form. A Mazda press release for the car speaks of a “friendly expression” up front for its new segment entry – a car promoting “futuristic values and changing lifestyles.”   

By John Coulter, CURRENT EV CMO   

You won’t see the sporty crossover anytime soon in the USA. The urban-focused e-mobility car will go on sale next year in Japan, China and Europe, where dense urban centers negate sky-high range requirements. The car’s 35.5kWh battery generates just 150 miles – a distance that only a few years ago was considered decent, but nowadays is considered on the low end, when compared to the ranges generated by the Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt and Nissan Leaf.   

Mazda has had some difficulties trying to create an electric vehicle and reducing its corporate average carbon dioxide emissions. One part of the problem is that the company is considered an intermediate-size manufacturer, which means they’re subject to California’s ZEV mandate, which requires a certain number of vehicles sold each year to be EVs, plug-in hybrids or hydrogen vehicles. Up to now, Mazda has gotten around its lack of EVs, hybrids and plug-ins by creating remarkably fuel-efficient gas and diesel engines. The EPA has indicated Mazda has the highest overall Manufacturer Adjusted Fuel Economy for 5 years in a row (2014 through 2018). But the company has now reached the point where it knows it has to adapt to the industry-wide evolution towards Next Gen Technology.   

Mazda has a development partnership with Toyota to create EVs, but doesn’t have any overarching partnerships with major car manufacturers. Which means they have to raise significant dollars for EV research, development and production on their own. Other auto manufacturers have spent billions to create EV segments, so Mazda has faced a huge challenge.   

Matsuda Kabushiki-gaisha, commonly referred to as simply Mazda (which means God of Light) was ranked the fifteenth biggest automaker by production worldwide in 2015, and has maintained that ranking until today, focusing on making cars that enthuse and are affordable. In 2018 it achieved an all-time record of selling 1.2 million vehicles worldwide; a 2.1% increase over the previous year. The USA has become its top new market over Japan and China. 70% of its vehicles are sold in Asia and America (North, Central and South), and the company projects yearly sales of 2 million units by 2025. To stay competitive in these market spaces, and to appear forward-looking by embracing CO2-combatting Next Gen Technology, the company has been forced to create a pure electric vehicle.   

The other part of the problem confronting Mazda when it considered how to create a battery-powered EV is that up to now, is that all its cars have relied solely on Wankel rotary-engines. Mazda finally seems to have made the transition by developing a pure electric drive for its MX30 called e-Skyactiv. Mazda’s website offers these specs concerning the drive battery; the Lithium-Ion unit uses prismatic cells, generates 355 Volts, and total electric power of 35.5kWh. The car’s EPA range and fuel-efficiency results aren’t out yet.   

Believe it or not, this is Mazda’s fourth electric vehicle, but the first that has been put into mass production. The company built a small batch of Mazda Demio battery electrics (also called Mazda 2) and leased them to government and corporate customers. A year after that, the automaker built a Mazda Demio EV prototype with a 330-cc rotary-powered range-extender engine. The car soon evolved into the e-TPV prototype which the company used to test its new powertrain, which exists today in the MX30.   

One of the first things you notice about the MX30 is its “freestyle doors,” which are like a BMW i3’s. The front doors open the usual way, while the back doors open in the opposite direction. An i3’s back doors allow you to enter the backseat area unhindered, but when you enter the MX30’s back doors, you still have to push the front seats forward to get in; a process similar to what’s required for a 2-door sedan. Mazda’s design team says the doors were engineered this way to create an open-feeling cabin interior.   

The designers paid lots of attention to use eco-friendly materials. Says Mazda: “Heritage Cork used in the console tray is designed to emphasize the texture and visual warmth of the material. The door trim features a fibrous material with a texture that seems to contain air, creating a material-based sense of openness within the cabin. Both of these materials are designed to be low-impact and sustainable. The door trim uses fibers made from recycled plastic bottles and the cork is harvested from the bark of trees without felling. The comfortable interior of the MX-30 is composed of such environmentally friendly materials.”   

Says automotive reviewer Christopher Smith: “Door trim uses fibers made from recycled plastic. Fabrics are also sourced from recycled materials, and the design itself promotes an open, airy sense, something certainly enhanced by the lack of a B-pillar. A floating console in the center offers tactile controls for forward and reverse, while a seven-inch touchscreen incorporated into the front of the console accesses the MX-30's various climate control and tech systems, including a plethora of safety systems as part of Mazda's I-Activsense gear.”   

The car’s I-Activsense technology has been further-enhanced and advanced from previous versions. Injury and and damage-mitigating brake technology and a Smart Brake Support (SBS) system adds collision prevention at intersections. Another new technology assists avoiding deviation from the driving lane via monitoring the curb and lane markings. The MX-30 has a rigid body and structures that efficiently absorb crash energy. And the car’s designers created special frame structures to protect the high-voltage battery.   

In 2017, Mazda announced its “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030” plan, a long-term vision defining how the carmaker will continue to provide enjoyable vehicles while also reducing CO2 emissions. Its stated goal is to reduce its new car life-cycle emissions 50% from 2010 levels by 2030. A car’s life-cycle includes the manufacture of all its materials, its fabrication process, and its driving duration by owner(s). To achieve their goal, Mazda is one of the few carmakers that has no intent to freeze the evolution of the gasoline engine. The company wants to continue improving its internal combustion engines, which figure prominently in its overall Greenhouse Gas-reducing strategy. The plan also stresses “introducing electric vehicles and other electric drive technologies in regions that use a high ratio of clean energy for power generation or restrict certain vehicles to reduce air pollution.”