HIROSHIMA, Japan -- Mazda Motor Corp., which starts leasing an electric Mazda2 subcompact in Japan this spring, says it needs an electric vehicle to meet California emissions guidelines and aims to launch one in the United States by 2018.
The Mazda2 EV, known as the Demio EV in Japan, runs on lithium ion batteries, has a range of 124 miles on a full charge and reaches a top speed of 87 mph.
Mazda is aiming for triple-digit leases annually in Japan, Chief Engineer Mitsuru Fujinaka said during a recent test drive of a near-production prototype. Mazda has not revealed overseas rollout plans, but Fujinaka said the company needs the car to help it meet California's proposed zero-emissions vehicle requirements.
"At least by 2018, but we will try to do it earlier," he said of an overseas sales date. "Sooner or later, we will have to have these electric vehicles. Otherwise, we can't sell in California. That is the biggest reason for pursuing this."
Mazda has lagged in developing expensive electric and hybrid vehicles. In recent years, it has focused its r&d budget on overhauling its internal combustion engine lineup, a less costly approach to achieving better fuel economy.
Mazda's new Skyactiv body architecture, which was introduced this year in an attempt to reduce weight and boost fuel economy and is expected to be used on the next generation Mazda2, isn't ideal for EVs, Fujinaka said. "We need a more efficient electric vehicle platform," he said, without giving further details.
The electric version of the Mazda2 is based on the current generation Mazda2, which has the company's pre-Skyactiv chassis and body system.
The car's lithium ion battery is T-shaped and sits under the front and rear seats, similar to the layout of the Chevrolet Volt's battery pack. South Korea's LG Chem supplies the Volt's battery cells; General Motors assembles the batteries. Mazda declined to identify its battery supplier. Mazda also buys its inverter and electric motor from suppliers.
The electric Mazda2 can fast charge in 30 minutes or fill up in eight hours through a 200-volt slow charge. Mazda says the battery-driven version weighs about 220 pounds more than the standard gasoline-powered Mazda2.