TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Mazda’s Robert Davis has a simple take on electric vehicles.
He isn’t buying them.
Davis, speaking Tuesday at the seminars, made it clear that while EVs have evolved, there is room for more innovation and that the “impending death of the internal combustion engine is overrated.”
Davis, senior vice president in charge of special assignments for North America, remains critical of the way the industry has introduced EVs for emission compliance purposes.
“Take the $7,500 EV credit off the table? At the same time, you take the EV mandate off the table,” Davis said dismissively. “Let the government keep the $7,500 and let the industry find the best way to meet the clean air standard. Make it CO2, make it grams per mile, fuel economy — whatever feels best.
“But don’t mandate the particular powertrain.”
Mazda has been on the sidelines as competitors brought electric models to market. But Mazda is a relatively small global automaker, without the resources to develop a wide range of powertrains.
Mazda has made fuel efficiency a priority with its Skyactiv technologies. But it is focusing on internal combustion engines, including upcoming diesel options.
Davis also raised concerns about lithium ion batteries, namely what happens to them when they’re replaced, because EV batteries cannot be recycled as easily as cellphone batteries.
“This is where the great thinkers of our industry need to speak up and be heard and make sure the manufacturers can do what they do best: compete against each other for the customers’ hearts and minds,” Davis said. “We’re all better than this. We can do better than this. We need to consider that this is not zero emissions. This is remote emissions, or displaced emissions. We need to work on the best solution for the customers and for the environment in a common target, not an instruction manual on how to get there.”
Davis also took aim at compliance cars, such as the Fiat 500e. He claimed such vehicles have made headlines for their cheap lease options in California but are losing money for their manufacturers.
“We all breathe the same air, and it makes the most sense for every car to be as efficient as it can be,” Davis said. “Making a couple of superefficient models to offset others really doesn’t make sense to us at Mazda. We just don’t build cars that way.
“The internal combustion engine has a strong future role in transportation,” Davis said. “We certainly considered the adoption of new technologies, batteries, EVs, plug-in hybrids and everything else. But they all share the internal combustion engine. So before we go into the time and effort and expense of adding electrification, we were convinced that a solid, efficient internal combustion engine was critical.”