Mazda is one of only a handful of companies who remain uncommitted to electric vehicles.  Up until now, the company has shown little interest in anything with alternative propulsion.  Over the past year, they have dismissed a possible hybrid model, then confirmed a hybrid model, discredited EVs and so on.  Now, even Mazda has entered into the EV mix, at least in a small way for now.

The company will convert 3 Mazda Demios, (otherwise known as the Mazda 2 outside of Japan) to operate on battery power.  The plug-in Demios will be produced by Mazda and the Itochu Corporation.  The two companies recently signed a partnership with Tsukuba City.

The converted Demio EVs will see use as part of a testing program.  Of course the vehicles electric drive system will be tested, but the program also aims to test car sharing services and the use of renewable energy to charge the vehicles as well as end of life battery use scenarios.

According to the company, the test program and all 3 converted Demios will be ready to take to the streets by March of next year.  With Mazda (one of the last major holdouts) entering the EV segment, virtually every automaker is now onboard.

Source:  Mazda

Mazda Demios to be Base Architecture for Electric Vehicle Test Project

- Mazda to provide three Mazda Demios for the "Tsukuba Environmental Style Test Project" -

HIROSHIMA, Japan-Mazda Motor Corporation will collaborate with Itochu Corporation and other companies in conjunction with Tsukuba City on a joint project to test a low-carbon transport system which uses clean energy. The Tsukuba Environmental Style Test Project is scheduled to commence in March 2010 in Tsukuba city, near Tokyo, Japan.

The project aims to comprehensively assess a low-carbon energy network composed of electric vehicles (EVs), rapid chargers, fixed battery stations, solar panels and a car sharing service. Mazda will provide three Mazda Demios for conversion to EVs, and will assist in determining optimum vehicle specifications and evaluating vehicle performance.

In order to provide all its customers with driving pleasure as well as superb environmental and safety performance, Mazda has adopted a policy to comprehensively improve its internal combustion engines and then progressively combine them with electric devices. This process includes the i-stop idling stop system, regenerative braking and hybrid systems. Through its participation in the Tsukuba Environmental Style Test Project, Mazda aims to further strengthen the base of its future R&D activities. Mazda's collaboration with various corporations and organizations will enable a broader knowledge base, including expertise related to EV infrastructure and the reuse of EV batteries. This will also benefit Mazda as it advances development of its electric drive technologies.

Going forward, Mazda will proactively work toward the establishment of a sustainable society and the evolution of environmental and safety technology based on its long-term vision for technology development, Sustainable Zoom-Zoom, which was announced in 2007.

About the Tsukuba Environmental Style Project

1. Main initiatives of the Tsukuba Environmental Style Test Project (each initiative will be the first case in Japan)

(1) Test the viability of reusing EV batteries in fixed battery stations

- Develop a system to reuse EV batteries in fixed battery stations, including remote battery monitoring technology.

(2)Test a model to optimally use renewable energy in EVs and in participating stores

- Using information and communications technologies (ICT) in conjunction with control and electricity storage technology, develop an effective system to optimally use electricity that is generated through solar panels, stored in fixed battery stations and supplied to EVs and participating stores.

(3) Test the viability of a new service to accelerate the establishment of a low-carbon transport society

- Introduce an EV car sharing system based at convenience stores.

- Test an integrated contactless smart card payment system for the rapid chargers and the car sharing service.

2. Participating organizations

Project leader

Itochu Corporation

List of collaborating companies and roles & responsibilities

Family Mart Provide sites for the project at convenience stores
Itochu Enex Provide sites for the project at service stations
Tokyo R&D Electric vehicle-related
Th!nk (Norway) Electric vehicle-related
Kyuki Supply rapid chargers
EnerDel Inc. (US) Supply vehicle batteries and fixed batteries
Seiko Electric Fixed battery system integration
Itochu Techno-Solutions Supply ICT technology, data center
Windcar Car sharing service operation
Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation Car sharing-related
Nippon Car Solutions Co. Car sharing-related
Ecosystem Japan Supply solar panel systems
Mazda Motor Corporation Electric vehicle-related (provide Mazda Demio vehicles)

Advisory Committee

Tsukuba City
National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST)
Japan Automobile Research Institute (JARI)
The Japan Research Institute, Limited