Mazda is exploring ways to keep the joy of driving a simple, lightweight sports car like the MX-5 Miata alive in a world of electric cars.
One solution, which the automaker previewed on Wednesday with the reveal of the Iconic SP concept at the 2023 Tokyo auto show, is avoiding the heavy weight that plagues most EVs by opting for a smaller battery in combination with a range extender, in this case a compact and lightweight rotary engine.
However, the Iconic SP is a sports car with a fixed roof and a footprint somewhat larger than that of a Miata, meaning it may not preview a future Miata, as previously thought, but possibly something akin to a modern RX sports car.
The Iconic SP’s styling also cribs from Mazda’s RX-Vision concept shown at the 2015 Tokyo auto show, resulting in the overall shape and proportions more closely resembling an RX sports car than a Miata. A look inside reveals a spartan cabin and an automatic transmission.
The concept also weighs approximately 3,200 pounds, which is roughly 1,000 pounds heavier than the current Miata. To make up for the extra weight, the power output is 370 hp, or about double the output of the current Miata.
Mazda didn’t provide specifics on the powertrain but said the range extender is a compact twin-rotor rotary engine with a scalable design and the flexibility to run on various fuels, including hydrogen.
Using a rotary engine as a range extender for an EV is no longer just an idea at Mazda. The automaker launched just such a setup in the MX-30 electric compact crossover in some markets earlier this year, albeit with a single-rotor rotary. The range-extended MX-30, badged an R-EV, features a battery that’s half the size of the battery in the regular MX-30, measuring just 17.8 kwh. With a full tank of gas and a fully charged battery, Mazda estimates the extended-range MX-30 will be able to cover more than 300 miles.
Speaking at the reveal in Tokyo, Mazda CEO Masahiro Moro said the concept represents Mazda’s “dream” solution for cars that can deliver the joy of driving in the age of electrification, and that the automaker is working hard to launch it on the market.
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