Could Mazda’s Lightweight Hybrid Drivetrain Patents Be a Miata?

One of the automakers that seem to be struggling as the auto industry shifts toward electrification is Mazda. So far, its sole EV has an underwhelming 100 miles of driving range. However, it’s working on a potent inline-six engine in hopes of moving up in the market. Meanwhile, Mazda still produces everyone’s favorite affordable compact lightweight car, the MX-5 Miata.

Mazda has already announced that the next generation, the NE MX-5 Miata, would have a mild-hybrid system. Recently, the automaker filed a patent that was published in December. Some industry experts think the documents reveal Mazda’s plans for Miata’s future.

A patent for the NE Mazda Miata?

An overhead shot of 2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata sports car roadster convertible models in gray and red
2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata models |

Like all automotive patents, this one doesn’t mention a specific Mazda model. However, the series of constraints described is very like an MX-5, according to The Drive. The website points out there’s an unusual level of detail for a patent, which might mean the plan is pretty substantial.

The patent from early 2019 details a fairly small battery pack, a capacitor bank, and three electric motors. Two of the motors are in-wheel, while the third is mounted to the transmission. There’s also a transaxle with a torque tube and a standard internal combustion engine. 

According to Mazda, the battery pack would be mounted in the transmission tunnel. Again, the patent gives more information than what’s normally offered. On top of describing the location of the battery pack and how it works with other systems, it gives its true capacity of 3.5 kWh. It mentions the front in-wheel motors put out 23 horsepower each, and the motor mounted on the transmission gets 34 horsepower. 

The patent describes a vehicle with the same configuration as the Miata. It outlines optimizing interior space, balancing the weight of the drivetrain, and an economy of weight where possible.

Mazda appears to be exploring how to increase the performance of an EV without significantly increasing its curb weight. The patent explains the battery is 48 volts, on par with other coming hybrid drivetrains from the automaker.  This conservative amount of voltage powers the electric motor at the transmission. It also powers the capacitor bank located in front of the engine to power the motors at the front wheels. The capacitor can send bursts of power to the front wheels for short sprints without taxing the smaller battery.

The speculative total system output with an estimated 252 horsepower. If that were true, the mild-hybrid NE MX-5 Miata would be the most powerful model produced. The vehicle will be all-wheel drive, which will appeal to a broader range of consumers.

The history of the Mazda Miata

At a time when smaller roadsters were vanishing from the market, the original MX-5 debuted. The few rivals left weren’t competition for the affordable MX-5

First seen in February 1989 at the Chicago Auto Show, the MX-5 was an appealing new sports car. That first generation, up to now, has been the most popular of the current four, with almost 290,000 units sold in the U.S. between 1989 and 1997.

The Mazda MX-5 Miata is known for being lightweight, with a curb weight of fewer than 2,500 pounds. It has crisp, responsive handling and features a longitudinal truss that lends a stiff connection between the differential and engine to enhance balance and reduce flex. Some models have great features like anti-lock brake systems, limited-slip differentials, and traction control.

Mazda’s plans for electrification

By 2030, Mazda plans to offer a fully electrified range, according to Autoweek. The Japanese automaker intends to move toward this goal in stages in a strategy it calls Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030.

Mazda plans to debut an EV platform called Skyactiv EV Scalable Architecture starting in 2025. The platform will work for battery-electric vehicles of varying sizes. Mazda will also produce hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles based on a Skyactiv Multi-Solution Scalable Architecture to support battery-electric models.

With the latter architecture, Mazda will produce three EV models, five PHEV models, and five hybrids. It’s expected these will launch between 2022 and 2025. The battery-electric models based on the dedicated EV platform can be expected between 2025 and 2030. Additionally, the automaker’s plan leaves the door open for hybrids and PHEVs past 2030.

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