By on January 9, 2020

Mazda bigwigs and engineers are still on the fence when it comes to the next-generation MX-5 Miata’s powertrain, but the current generation is still capable of learning new tricks.

The automaker’s European-market MX-5s, at the very least, will take on a standard energy recovery system for the 2020 model year that carries some of the trappings of a hybrid. What the system can’t do is send any amount of electric power to the drive wheels — though it can reduce the load on the conventional gasoline engine.

The system is the brand’s i-ELOOP — a not-new-at-all brake energy regeneration system that recoups kinetic energy normally lost through braking in order to power vehicle accessories. It’s a system developed early last decade, first appearing in the Mazda 3 and 6, but it’s one you rarely you hear anyone talk about.

Mazda provides the details here:

i-ELOOP performs three functions; ‘regeneration,’ ‘storage’ and ‘use.’ A big focus of the development was how to generate and store electricity as efficiently as possible because the opportunity to do this, the period when a car is braking or decelerating, is by nature very short. In order to develop a system which efficiently recaptures kinetic energy, generates electricity, quickly stores that electricity, Mazda has utilize variable voltage alternator and low-resistance, high-capacity electric double layer capacitor (EDLC).

Conventional alternator charges at around 12 volts (V), however i-ELOOP’s variable voltage alternator can vary its output voltage from 12 V to 25V in response to the voltage level of the capacitor and making it possible to continually supply electricity to the capacitor.

Unlike a battery that works via chemical reaction, capacitors store energy as electricity and for this reason it can charge and discharge large amounts of electricity very quickly. It also exhibits very little deterioration of the electrodes even after prolonged use. Using capacitors as electricity storage devices in brake energy regeneration systems not only improves fuel economy, it is also expected to prolong the life span of the vehicles lead-acid battery.

Fancy diagram follows:

As you’ve read here, European emissions regulations are growing far stricter in 2020, forcing automakers to either pare down their offerings, or tinker with available powertrains. Mazda especially finds itself against the ropes, what with its dearth of hybrid or electric models.

Recently, the automaker said it would reduce the number of 2.0-liter MX-5s sold in the UK to avoid a too-high fleetwide emissions footprint. The 2020 MX-5 will still offer a choice of 1.5- and 2.0-liter mills, only now with i-ELOOP. Just what the system might do for the vehicle’s fuel economy isn’t known, but it certainly won’t harm it.

Anything Mazda can do to keep the roadster viable in a strict regulatory environment is likely on the table, though the model’s next generation remains shrouded in mystery. As for the U.S. market, Mazda hasn’t detailed any changes coming to the model.

[Images: Mazda]

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13 Comments on “Overseas Mazda MX-5 Gains the Mildest Bit of Electrification...”

  • avatar

    I do think this is super cool.

  • avatar

    An ER system that even simply improves braking or reduces pad wear sounds like a win to me.

    • 0 avatar

      I concur. This uses otherwise wasted energy for another purpose. Can’that expensive to engineer and it helps a bit overall. Good move. Actually should be standard equipment on all appropriate vehicles.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    What they don’t say is how much weight it adds. But I’m sure it’s more beneficial than harmful.

  • avatar

    “recoups kinetic energy normally lost through braking in order to power vehicle accessories”

    Tell me again why my home is filled with LED’s but ‘modern’ vehicles have incandescent bulbs all through the interior?

    (There is no free lunch, even with powering dash lights – at old GM’s Kapuskasing Cold Weather Development Center, engineers would turn on accessories because the additional engine load helped the vehicle warm up faster.)

    And how much fuel is used each year hauling around thick-gauge wiring because OEM’s are afraid of anything higher than 13.8 volts?

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      A lot of new luxury cars have 48-volt electrical systems, thanks to their MHEV powertrains (see Aud, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini, etc…)

  • avatar

    Toolguy, most of the interior lights are turned off 99.5% of the time, so their energy consumption is not a big issue. As for the dash lights, be careful what you wish for. Dimming becomes a serious problem with cheap LEDs. I have seen a few cheaper vehicles (late 2000’s Hyundais for example) where the gauges were backlit with LEDs. Anything less than 3/4 brightness caused a very visible and distracting flicker in the gauge lighting. In addition, they had a poor lower endpoint for brightness (possibly because even Hyundai couldn’t ignore how unstable the lighting would become at truedim settings). Very annoying and slightly unsafe for night driving. Also, I didn’t open up the cluster, but I rather doubt that those LEDs were easily replaceable. Probably surface-mount soldered to save assembly cost. That could lead to hassles later in the car’s life.

  • avatar

    My 2015 VW uses LEDs for most/all interior lights. Newer models than mine are all LED for all the exterior lights too.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Yeah, my ’19 Tiguan is full-LED. The fog lights weren’t, but I swapped those for LED bulbs. They may also have cheaped out and used an incandescent bulb in the cargo area or something; I’m not sure.

      As I recall, the first car that bragged it was fully LED was the then-new 2014 (W222) S-Class. So, that’s how far we have to go…

      • 0 avatar

        Too bad an LED only needs about 1.7 volts, and whatever amps depending on size, to glow. The power supplies for them throw away a lot of the energy that incandescents would have used. LED’s main benefit is instant on and guided beams. But on my new car, there’s an obvious delay when I turn on the headlights, so presumably the power supply has to charge up from scratch before it supplies energy to the headlamps. I somehow manage to survive the incandescents used in the sun visors, glove box, interior overhead lights and the trunk. $20 would fix them if I cared.

  • avatar

    I’d like to know what the energy storage capacity of that capacitor is,

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    I don’t see how the brakes are involved here as other posters have intimated. Mazda’s sales blurb mentions the variable voltage alternator not brakes in regeneration.

  • avatar

    @Jean, they are saying that brake life will be extended as the alternator will now do a little of the work. However this will provide very little braking as a belt can’t transfer that much energy.

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