Overseas Mazda MX-5 Gains the Mildest Bit of Electrification

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Jean-Pierre Sarti Jean-Pierre Sarti on Jan 09, 2020

    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.

  • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Jan 10, 2020

    @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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