With just 199km of range from its smallish 35.5kWh battery, Malaysians were quick to doubt the real world usability of the incoming Mazda MX-30. Would a range-extender ease those concerns?
First of all, Mazda is never one to shy away from introducing a bold concept into the mix. Just as their cars can be perceived as radical from norms established by other Japanese automakers in terms of design and engineering, the MX-30 is an EV with a difference.
Instead of attempting to replace the car you already (probably own) as your main mode of personal transport, it seeks to fill the role of an efficient, stylish, fun, and zero emissions second vehicle - hence the ‘limited’ published WLTP range of 199km.
It’s not meant for long distance road trips or lengthy commutes but is optimised to excel at quicker, shorter journeys that are done in higher frequency like the kind we find ourselves doing over a weekend to catch up on our long ‘to-do lists’.
For some, approximately 200km of travel distance between charges is plenty to get them through the week, but its smaller capacity battery also means quicker charge times even when hooked up to the slower but more widespread AC charger.
Still, since it has an onboard AC converter that outputs at just 6.6kW instead of the usual 11kW or 22kW, it still takes some 5 hours to fully charge. Hooking it up to a fast charger will cut down wait time, naturally, but its quoted 36 minutes (to 80%) is about level with most other EVs with higher capacities due to the MX-30’s relatively low maximum DC input rate of 40kW.
By comparison, the Hyundai Kona Electric in e-Lite and e-Plus guises supports DC charging up to 100kW (47 minutes to 80%) and yields a claimed 305km on a single charge from a 39.2kWh battery.
In other markets, Mazda also offers the MX-30 with a small petrol-powered rotary combustion engine that effectively makes it a REEV (Range-Extended Electric Vehicle).
The engine in a REEV is only used as an onboard generator to replenish the battery and power auxiliary systems, but not to directly power the electric motor that drives the wheels.
Importantly, it serves as buffer against range anxiety, acting as a ‘last resort’ should the EV not be able to reach a charging point in time by burning its petrol reserves and extending the vehicle’s effective range - hence the name.
The BMW i3 was one of the first mass-produced electric vehicles, to include a similar range extender system, albeit as an optional extra, to augment the endurance of the car’s relatively small 22kWh battery at launch.
Interestingly, the MX-30’s range extender system uses a Wankel rotary engine similar to the beloved units found in the discontinued RX-8, RX-7 sports cars, but further miniaturised and only producing 38PS. Reports have said the MX-30 can travel up to 400km with the use of the range extender, though this has yet to be confirmed by Mazda themselves as it has yet to enter production.
Unfortunately Bermaz Motor, the brand’s exclusive distributor in Malaysia, has said that there are no plans to bring in the range extender version to offer alongside the fully electric MX-30 that was previewed in late April 2022.
Like potential EV converts in other countries, a range of just 199km might be enough of a disadvantage to keep the MX-30 off their shortlists despite its other positive attributes: stylish design, premium appointments, and presumably high equipment levels.
It’s only natural for buyers, especially those first-time adopters, to opt for an electric vehicle that can deliver a per-charge range that’s similar to what they expect from their combustion-powered vehicles. However, as more people become familiar with adapting their requirements around EVs, they might find that a larger capacity battery is unnecessary.
Having lived with the Hyundai Kona Electric and its 305km range (39.2kWh), I can attest to experiencing this so-called ‘range anxiety’ firsthand. Though I never found myself in a situation where I was stranded with a depleted battery, I credit this to the persistent worrying about charging it at the earliest convenience, which was made more difficult without a home-mounted wallbox or convenient socket plug point at my condominium’s multi-storey car park.
Given more time, I could have settled into ‘trusting’ the car’s displayed range and become more confident in thinking ahead about when/where to slot in a charge session, but that isn’t a concern a first-time EV buyer can be expected to dismiss.
Upping the MX-30’s advertised total range to something closer to 400km with the help of a range extender will certainly help drive sales even though its methods to reach that figure is technically breaking its own ‘zero emissions’ label.
It’s just unfortunate that, at the earliest, Bermaz will only be able to offer an MX-30 in showrooms with a range extender sometime in 2023 instead of at the model’s slated Malaysian launch (EV only) in latter 2022, though they do not seem to have an interest in doing so.
There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.