Jalopnik readers likely account for the largest group of Mazda Miata experts in the world, built upon a foundation of the inscrutable formula for an affordable, sporty and lightweight roadster that the Miata has developed for over 30 years. We know it has a scary electrified future; let’s now guess at what to expect for one of the internet’s favorite cars.
With the news that Mazda is now developing electric powertrains to be applied to every model in its lineup by 2030, Motor1 received a little more clues as to what to expect for the beloved Mazda Miata roadster from Mazda:
Mazda is seeking to electrify the MX-5 Miata in an effort to have all models feature a form of electrification by 2030. We will work hard to make it a lightweight, affordable, open two-seater sports car in order to meet the needs of customers.
Based on the language in Mazda’s statement, the only thing we can be certain of is that a hybrid or fully-electric powertrain option will be available on the Miata at some point in the next nine years. Remain calm.
By saying “all models” will “feature a form of electrification,” it is possible that a combustion-powered Miata will continue to be developed alongside the new electric powertrains and sold as separate trims. We don’t need to assume the combustion-only Miata is going anywhere yet, so nobody panic.
But the question of the best approach for this electrified Miata is even more interesting because there are multiple packaging options for us to consider. I want to know which one Miata loyalists think would be the best application for the god-roadster.
What could we get? It’s possible that Mazda could be talking about a hybrid version of the current ND-generation Mazda Miata, if it has already been developing the technology. They pulled off a packaging miracle with the Miata RF on this platform already, perhaps they can use that knowledge to rework a hybrid model efficiently for another surprise.
The more-likely scenario for an electric-powered Miata is a powertrain that’s been worked from the beginning to be compatible with the next-gen, which I guess would be coined the NE, and honestly we should demand nothing less than a bespoke approach.
With the NE, I don’t think Mazda would jump straight to a fully-electric Miata this suddenly, though the timing of getting to “NE” in generational nomenclature smack in the middle of the industry’s electric revolution is a branding godsend for the marketers at Mazda. If the car does just go full EV, the batteries will go under the floor. Boring!
It would make more sense to me for the NE to introduce a combustion version and a hybrid model version of the same platform, and I’d be fully impressed if they had the guts to debut the car with both powertrains from the get go to really test them against one another in performance and sales.
Running with this scenario, what will this hybrid Miata look like under the skin if we assume the performance benchmark is probably similar to stats for the current car?
If it still has an engine under the hood, what is the best application for the hybrid battery power? Maybe an in-line electric motor generator unit bolted to the engine for space? Will Mazda also try for a hybrid manual transmission? It would be very entertaining to have their engineers explain it very slowly to me one day!
The hybrid layout makes it tricky to retain the high-priority weight distribution and balance, and Mazda has previously strived to retain a near-perfect 50-50 distribution. You could approach this simply with the battery packaged in a spine down the middle of the car, but the platform has to be built around it, it severely limits access to the pack, and it hinders further packaging decisions for the frame and interior. This layout has been used for coupes, however, like the Polestar 1 and the possibly-real upcoming Karma SC2.
Unlike most hybrids, which are larger vehicles, the Miata won’t have back seats to hide the batteries under, either. I’d wager the batteries end up in a similar location to the hardtop mechanism on the NC Miata and current RF, with the goal of achieving a similar weight balance. Alternatively, if they throw the batteries in the trunk way out back with that electric torque, suddenly the little 180 horsepower roadster is a drift machine, which is worth considering.
The traditional lightweight handling of each generation of the car will make any significant gains in bulk noticeable to anyone with any seat time in those cars, so I’m sure Mazda will obsess to get the experience as close to perfect as possible.
I have a lot of faith in Mazda to impress me with their packaging solutions all over again, like with the RF Miata that somehow was only 113 pounds heavier than the soft top. I’m confident but not too excited, and I hope Mazda offers a combustion-only model for at least one more generation.
I would ask you what the electric Miata of your dreams is, but I fear all I will get in response is a chorus of, “I do not dream of electric Miatas.” So, then, what do you want to see happen to the Miata’s inevitable batteries, and what do you think will actually happen?