Mazda is a latecomer to the electric vehicle party, having invested heavily in efficient rotary engine technology (relatively speaking, compared to standard combustion engine), but photos reportedly leaked out of Norway suggest that the Japanese automaker is making some headway with its first fully electric vehicle.
The carmaker first confirmed a fully electric vehicle for production in 2020 in June 2019, and now the first images if what is said to be an electric prototype have been snapped thanks to spotter Jonathan Rodriguez.
The images show an SUV-style vehicle very much like Mazda’s popular CX-5, the diesel version of which the carmaker has blamed on its struggle to meet tough European CO2 emissions standards.
Finished in a matte black and with no apparent exhaust pipe and a very odd-shaped protrusion above the rear right tyre, Rodriguez, who shared the images with Electrek, said that the car was very silent – as electric cars are (although we imagine even prototypes would require an acoustic safety alert system (AVAS) as is being considered here and is already mandatory in Europe.
Mazda CEO Akira Marumoto said in June that while the carmaker was intending to develop an EV drivetrain in conjunction with fellow EV-laggard Toyota, it would first introduce an EV on its own architecture.
It must be noted, however, that in Norway, number plates for electric vehicles begin with EV, EL or EK, while HY is reserved for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
This vehicle on the other hand starts with HG. It is known that Mazda dipped its toe in the hydrogen game back at the turn of the century with the Demio and the Premacy, and later on the RX8 but in the form of a hydrogen rotary engine.
There are more recent reports of Mazda working with Toyota to further develop FCEVs (Toyotas has the Mirai FCEV), but it could just be that the number plate shown in these pictures is designed to throw spotters off the game.
The photos of the prototype suggest that the carmaker is basing it on the existing chassis of the CX-5.
If that is the case it would likely be working the EV drivetrain and the necessary electrical architecture in the spaces left be the internal combustion engine and drivetrain of the petrol and diesel version, much like the Hyundai Kona Electric.
Promising perhaps, but it can’t be dismissed that Mazda has also pointed out it will not be giving up on its “lean burn” SkyActiv-X technology, nor its plan to electrify its entire range by 2030 using “rotary range extenders”.
Also worth noting is that fact that with the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show rapidly approaching next month, many carmakers are beginning to announce what new vehicles and concepts are planned for unveiling, there has been no such announcement from Mazda.
In fact, Mazda are not even on the exhibitor list for the 2019 show, which suggests that whether the images from Rodriguez are of an electric or FCEV prototype, the carmaker is not yet ready to officially unveil it.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.