Mazda will lease electric cars this fall, but only in Japan

Mazda launches Demio EV in JapanMazda is dipping its toe into the proverbial electric car pond. This fall, the Japanese company will follow carmakers like Honda and Audi in launching an electric vehicle (EV) test program. Mazda will lease electric versions of the Demio (aka Mazda 2) to customers in Japan on a limited basis.

The electric Mazda 2 is powered by an electric motor with 101 horsepower and 11 pound-feet of torque. Mazda says its will match the performance of the Demio/2’s 1.5-liter gasoline engine, which has 100 hp and 98 lb-ft.

The electric motor is powered by a 20 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. According to Mazda, that should give the electric 2 a range of 124 miles. The company also said that, despite the battery pack, the EV has the same passenger and cargo space as a regular 2. That is an impressive feat considering how small the car is.

The battery takes eight hours to fully charge, but customers can opt for a quick charging system that brings it to 80 percent capacity in 40 minutes.

If Mazda’s claims prove true, the company could have a competitive EV on its hands. A Nissan Leaf is larger, and has more power (107 hp and 207 lb-ft), but its 73-mile range is significantly less than the Mazda’s. It’s the same story with the Ford Focus Electric; the Ford is also a size larger, and more powerful (141 hp, 188 lb-ft), but it only has a 76-mile range.

Whether EV shoppers will want to trade size for range is academic, since the Mazda Demio EV will not be sold to the general public. Instead, 100 cars will be leased to customers in Western Japan beginning in October. Mazda Demio (Mazda 2) EV front three-quarter viewWith the electric 2s out on the road, Mazda will be able to get real-world data on EV usage and customer preferences. The cars will be test platforms for future EVs, not production models in their own right.

Several companies have taken this approach in order to learn more about EVs. BMW did it with the Mini E and 1 Series-based Active E. Audi and Volkswagen are testing electric A3s and Golfs, respectively. Honda sent its Fit EV to Google and Stanford University before any cars made it to customers.

Since EVs represent brand-new technologies, few companies are willing to invest in a production-ready car without having some idea of how that car will be used.

For now, Mazda is focusing on refining conventional internal combustion technology. The company does not sell any hybrid or electric vehicles, but its SkyActiv designs are making its lineup more efficient. SkyActiv applies new technologies like direct injection to engines, and represents an effort by Mazda to make components lighter.

Product Review

Ford’s reincarnated Ranger feels like a car that does everything a truck can do

The 2019 Ford Ranger aims to be a tool for weekend adventures, and goes head-to-head with midsize pickup trucks from Chevrolet, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota. Ford hasn’t sold the Ranger in the United States since 2011, so it has to make up…

Audi’s self-driving car unit teams up with Luminar to go driverless in 2021

Audi's self-driving car unit has teamed up with Luminar to develop and test autonomous technology. Luminar provides its lidar technology, which sees farther than the sensors offered by rivals, while Audi brings its own software.

The best compact cars pack full-size features in fun-size packages

The best compact cars on the market rival their counterparts in many ways, proving that bigger isn’t always better. Here, we've rounded up some of the better options available, including an SUV and an electric alternative.
Product Review

Boring takes a back seat as 2019 Corolla Hatchback mixes fun with practicality

We drive the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, the latest hatchback to bear the Corolla name. As the best-selling nameplate in automotive history, Toyota has high expectations to meet. This model mostly lives up to the legacy.

What’s next for in-car entertainment? Audi believes it knows

Audi is bringing two technologies to CES 2019. The first turns a car -- a luxury sedan, in this case -- into a drive-in movie theater. The second is presented as a new entertainment format that turns the journey into the destination.
Product Review

The all-new 3 Series proves BMW can still build a compelling sport sedan

Seat time in the entry-level BMW 330i ($41,425) and M340i xDrive ($54,995) will test the German automaker’s commitment to driving dynamics, powertrain refinement, and cutting edge technology.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

California wants all-electric public bus fleet on its roads by 2040

California approved a regulation that targets an all-electric public bus fleet for the whole state by 2040. The effect of the full implementation of the regulation is equivalent to taking 4 million cars off the road.

1,000-mph Bloodhound supersonic car project finds a last-minute savior

The Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC) project has found a buyer. The project was going to be disbanded after running out of funds, but its assets were purchased by British businessman Ian Warhurst.

Ford’s prototype Quiet Kennel uses noise-canceling tech to keep dogs stress-free

Ford is ending 2018 by venturing into the doghouse market. The company's European division has built a kennel equipped with active noise-canceling technology and soundproof walls that help dogs sleep through fireworks.

Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.
Emerging Tech

Self-driving dirt rally vehicle offers crash course in autonomous car safety

Georgia Tech's AutoRally initiative pushes self-driving cars to their limit by getting scaled-down autonomous vehicles to drive really, really fast and aggressively on dirt roads. Here's why.

Lincoln revives its coolest-ever design feature for limited-edition Continental

The 1961 Lincoln Continental became a design icon thanks to center-opening "coach doors" (also known as "suicide doors"). Lincoln is bringing those doors back for a special edition of the 2019 Continental.

Land Rover’s upcoming high-tech Defender will leave last-gen model in the dust

Land Rover is giving the Defender a full reboot. The original SUV was a rugged machine built to go anywhere. Its replacement will tick those boxes, too, but it will add a dose of technology and luxury.