Mazda's First Electric Vehicle Only Has A Small Battery Pack, And For Good Reasons

Mazda’s First Electric Vehicle Has A Small Battery Pack, And For Good Reasons

Because a bigger battery pack is also harder to dispose of.

Whenever someone is looking into buying an electric vehicle (EV), the first question that typically asks is how far can it go in a single charge. For people who travel short distances daily, adopting an EV lifestyle can be quite easy, but for those who travel across different provinces and cities, owning an EV can be quite difficult, especially since charging stations are few and far in between in many countries.

Over the years, customers have demanded manufacturers to create EVs that can travel as far as an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle could. The Tesla Model S 100D Long Range, for instance, has a range of up to 600 kilometers in a single charge, which is just as good as any other car with an ICE. This makes long-distance trips with an EV easier to plan and lessens range anxiety.

2020 Mazda MX-30 Exterior

2020 Mazda MX-30 Exterior

When Mazda unveiled its first-ever electric vehicle, the MX-30, it was revealed that it will only have a 35.5 kWh battery pack that lets it travel for up to 209 kilometers in a single charge. In comparison, the PH-market Hyundai Kona Electric with its 64 kWh battery pack lets it travel for up to 449 kilometers. Its range, however, is comparable to that of the base Nissan Leaf and the Hyundai Ioniq Electric.

Tomiko Takeuchi, Mazda MX-30 Program Manager

This, however, was a deliberate decision due to the “Well-to-Wheel” approach. Tomiko Takeuchi, Mazda MX-30 Program Manager says that having a bigger battery means more CO2 emissions during the production process and power generation, especially if the power plants are dependent on coal. She also adds that not everyone needs a lot of range, wherein many Europeans drive within 50 kilometers daily. Mazda does note the need for added range by some drivers, especially in North America where drivers travel for far longer distances on a daily basis. To answer that demand, a range extender version with a compact rotary engine is currently in the works.

At this point, you may be wondering why not just create a bigger battery to cater to that demand? Well, the decision to develop a rotary range extender was also based on the “Well-to-Wheel” approach. Hidetoshi Kudo, Executive Officer of Mazda Motor Corporation says that many countries around the world are still dependent on coal for their electricity generation. Another challenge would be the environmental impacts of recycling or disposing of a bigger battery.

Ultimately, Mazda is offering a multi-solution approach to reduce CO2 emissions from vehicle production, power generation and during the vehicle’s life. For countries like Norway where drivers travel around 50 kilometers a day and have a high ratio of renewable energy generation, a pure EV would already be a viable solution. For countries that mainly depend on coal like India, China and the United States, Mazda thinks the best solution would still be a vehicle with an ICE, albeit electrified, or even a rotary range extender version of the MX-30.

Mazda’s multi-solution approach and creating a “right-size” battery pack for the MX-30 are best explained when comparing the life-cycle CO2 emissions of a Mazda 3 diesel, a Mazda MX-30 and an EV with a 95 kWh battery pack. In a coal-dependent country, the Mazda 3 diesel is a far more eco-friendly choice, while the EV with a 95 kWh battery pack will emit the most CO2. Meanwhile, in countries that have a high ratio of renewables such as solar power, both the Mazda MX-30 and the EV with a 95 kWh battery pack are more eco-friendly, yet over the lifetime of both EVs, the MX-30’s “right-size” 35.5 kWh battery pack will emit the least amount of CO2 during its lifetime.

All of Mazda’s vehicles will eventually be electrified (hybrids, plug-in hybrids, EVs) as part of its Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030 program. It serves as a multi-solution approach to reducing CO2 emissions. Mazda sees that the challenge is not just with the infrastructure for EVs, but what energy source do the cities and countries use to provide electricity.

The MX-30 will first go on sale in Europe to meet the European Union’s (EU) target that by 2021, with the phase-in period being in 2020, the EU fleet-wide average emission target for new cars shall be at 95 g CO2/km. Japan and the rest of the world will follow shortly thereafter.

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