When I asked Bob Lutz almost a year ago whether he thought other car companies would be adopting the Chevy Volt's "extended range electric vehicle" platform, he said that they were welcome to join in the fun.
But he may not have expected that other car companies would be so quick to the punch. While GM has been pushing like crazy to get the Volt out of the door, it looks like Mazda (Ford) has had a little bit of work going on as well.
While all eyes have been on the Volt, Mazda outfitted a Mazda MPV with an electric engine, some batteries, and an onboard Wankel engine to re-charge the batteries. Basically, this is the same set-up as the Volt with two big differences.
- The batteries are probably small and cheap, and Mazda will need to do a lot of work before matching the Volt's 40 mile range
- Mazda is, quite cleverly, using the Wankel engine that they have some experience with. Wankel rotary engines are much smaller and lighter than piston engines, and so will be less of a burden to haul around while the car doesn't need it.
Oh, and the other difference is that this is all very hush hush. And, generally, that means that "hopefully ready in two years" means "if absolutely everything goes right and nothing at all goes wrong."
Generously, I say we'll wait for another four years before Mazda has an Extended Range EV in showrooms.
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