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Official: Mazda to enter hybrid race

Going hybrid: Mazda will borrow Toyota Prius hybrid technology.

Mazda to employ drive technology from Toyota’s Prius for its first hybrid

Mazda logo30 Mar 2010


MAZDA has announced plans to release its first hybrid vehicle in Japan in 2013 in a landmark licensing deal that will match Mazda’s next-generation ‘Sky’ engine with the full parallel hybrid drive system from Toyota’s Prius.

It is unclear if the Japanese brand’s first hybrid will be an all-new dedicated vehicle or based on an existing Mazda model, or if the car will employ a petrol or diesel version of Mazda’s upcoming Sky engine range, which will debut globally next year.

The announcement marks the first official confirmation of Mazda entering the hybrid race, in an extension of its ‘Building Block’ strategy to reduce overall vehicle weights, develop conventional engine and transmission technology and progressively add hybrid technologies to meet its commitment of increasing the average fuel economy of Mazda vehicles sold globally by 30 per cent between 2008 and 2015.

While a new ‘Sky-Drive’ six-speed automatic transmission and idle-stop and regenerative braking systems were already part of Mazda’s next-generation model strategy, the company’s hybrid efforts so far have been limited to low-volume hydrogen-powered, rotary-engined hybrid versions of the RX-8 sportscar and Premacy people-mover.

 center image Left: Mazda SKY-G 2.0-litre engine.

The next all-new model likely to leverage Mazda’s Sky powertrain technology is the Mazda2, which due to appear globally in 2011 before going on sale here in 2012. While the new Mazda2 should debut the company’s new Sky-G petrol engine, the next Mazda6 is expected to debut Mazda’s ground-breaking new Sky-D diesel engine.

As we have reported, combined with the new Sky-Drive transmission, idle-stop, regenerative braking and a 100kg-lower kerb weight, the next-generation Mazda6 diesel-auto – due to appear in 2012 – could return fuel consumption as low as 4.0L/100km.

Toyota and Mazda announced its agreement in a joint press release issued late on March 29.

“Leveraging this agreement, Mazda plans to combine the hybrid system with its next-generation Sky engine that is currently under development, and develop and manufacture a hybrid vehicle in Japan. Mazda is aiming to commence sales of a hybrid vehicle starting in Japan by 2013,” they said.

“Through this partnership, each company intends to offer technologies and products with outstanding environmental benefits to as many people as possible.” Further, Toyota has announced it will consider requests from other companies to supply hybrid technology from its pioneering Prius, which has found more than 2.3 million homes in more than 70 countries after being launched as the world’s first mass-production hybrid vehicle in 1997.

For its part, Mazda Australia says it will consider its parent company’s first hybrid model for local release if it becomes available outside Japan, but would not comment further.

“We’re very much aware of what’s going on as part of the announcement for Toyota to supply Mazda with hybrid vehicle technology,” said Mazda Australia public relations manager Steve Maciver.

“As stated, our Building Block strategy involves first of all optimising the efficiency of the internal combustion engine, which you’ll see in the Sky engine due for global release in 2011.

“Beyond that we’ll phase in hybrid devices such as i-stop and regenerative braking, but the agreement with Toyota then allows us to move into full hybrid drive systems.

“There has been no comment or commitment made as to what the first such vehicle will look like, but the plan is to introduce that vehicle in Japan by 2013.

“I can’t comment on whether Australia will receive that vehicle, but as with any new product offered to us our product team will consider if it meets the needs of Australian customers.” Mazda president and CEO Takashi Yamanouchi revealed to GoAuto last May that his company’s new Sky engines would form the basis of the company’s first full hybrid model “in the early period after 2011”.

Global R&D chief Seita Kanai also pre-empted Mazda’s hybrid move a month earlier, when he told Automotive News Europe (ANE) that Mazda lacked the finances to develop hybrids to rival those from Toyota or Honda.

“We're in real trouble,” said Mr Kanai of rapidly falling hybrid prices at the time. “It's a threat. We don't have the resources to get involved in that kind of competition.”

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