Maybe First Step Toward Higher Volumes?True to its word, Mazda is planning to launch of electric version of its Demio compact (known as the Mazda2 in most regions of the world). Sadly, it will only be available in Japan and in a very small quantity (±100), but hopefully that just Mazda dipping its toe in the water before taking the plunge if things go well. The Demio EV will be available for leasing, mostly by local governments and corporate customers in the Chugoku region of Western Japan, starting in October 2012.
The Demio EV features a 20 kWh, 346 V Li-ion battery pack and Mazda coil-switching electric motor with maximum output of 75 kW from 5,200 to 12,000 rpm and maximum torque of 150 N·m (111 lb-ft) from 0–2800 rpm. Driving range is up to 200 kilometers (124 miles) on the JC08 mode test cycle, as measured by Mazda.
That's a pretty good range, though it would no doubt be shorter on the stricter EPA testing cycle.
I do wish that Mazda - and most other automakers - would be a bit bolder when it comes to EVs, though. Taking cars that have been designed for a gasoline powertrain and then converting them to EVs has many downsides. By designing from the ground up for the specific characteristics of EVs, they might spend more at first but they would be a lot more successful and could recoup those investments by taking leadership.
An example of this is Tesla's Model S, which recently got very good reviews; part of the reason why it's so good is because they designed it from the ground up to be electric, so they saved a lot of weight by using aluminum rather than steel, and used the battery pack as part of the vehicle's structure, saving more weight and space, etc. Aluminum and carbon fiber are more expensive than steel in isolation, but when you look at the whole system, the weight saved means you can downsize the battery pack or increase the driving range, which is worth a lot more over the lifecycle of the vehicle than what you spend on those materials... Automakers need to think outside the box to make successful EVs.
See also: Electric Mazda2 Coming to Japan in 2012