The Purist Mazda MX-5 Miata Is Getting Hybrid Tech

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Mazda's i-ELOOP is now standard on all Euro-spec Miatas. Will it come to the US-market?

Mazda has just revealed the details of its 2020 MX-5 Miata refresh for the European market, which - among other things - will make the company's i-ELOOP regenerative braking system standard across all models. The system has been around since 2012, using electricity generated under braking to boost fuel economy and free up engine horsepower, but as Road & Track notes, this marks its first-ever inclusion in the MX-5 Miata.

Mazda's decision to roll the feature out across the MX-5 model range in Europe reflects the realities of that market's sharply rising corporate average fuel economy and emissions standards.

2016-2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata Front Angle View Mazda
Mazda
Mazda

Mazda's i-ELOOP regenerative braking functions by fully engaging the alternator under deceleration to recover some of the braking energy that would otherwise be ejected as waste heat. That extra juice is funneled not into the car's conventional battery, but into a supercapacitor pack, which is able to more efficiently capture that energy. The stored electricity is then available to power vehicle electronics, thus reducing the load on the alternator to as little as naught.

As simple as that all sounds, the effect on powertrain efficiency is surprisingly sizable, with an advertised boost in fuel economy of around 5 percent in normal conditions - sometimes more in stop-and-go traffic. Meanwhile, the power normally used up turning the alternator is, in many circumstances, completely freed up.

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2017-2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Front Angle View Mazda
2017-2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Side View Mazda
2017-2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Rear Angle View Mazda

So, will we see i-ELOOP make its way into the US-market Mazda MX-5 Miata as standard equipment? It's hard to tell. Responding to the wishes of some auto manufacturers, the Trump administration has indicated that it will slow the incrementally rising fuel economy standards put forth under former US president Barack Obama, lessening the need for US-market passenger cars to maximize powertrain efficiency.

Without that legal impetus, Mazda's i-ELOOP system might be seen as little more than added weight, cost, and complexity on the US-market MX-5 Miata.

2016-2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata Front Angle View Mazda
2016-2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata Front Angle View Mazda
2016-2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata Front View Driving Mazda

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