Mazda is just teasing us with these hybrid sports car plans

Mazda is one of the car companies subscribed to internal combustion forever club, but that doesn’t mean it’s opposed to hybrid technology. It currently offers several hybrids for sale, but recently filed for what can only be described as a mountain of patents related to a specific configuration of a powerful hybrid sports car. There seem to be too many of these plans to amount to anything. Whether it’s the new Miata or a larger GT, this potential future enthusiast machine is seriously taking shape and is a very interesting configuration.

We’ve seen a similar setup before in older patents, but this latest round of filings is different and goes deeper into the finer details. It is a longitudinal combustion engine, triple electric motor configuration and automatic transmission. Two front axle motors are located on either side of the engine, sending power to the front wheels via drive shafts. A third motor applies power directly to the transmission and drives the rear wheels along with the engine. Probably this motor can also be used as a starter motor.

In the past, Mazda has described such hybrid systems as capable of providing a total of about 80 electric horsepower, though that figure can be adjusted up and down, at least for short bursts, with relative ease. These new patent documents not only detail the structure of the vehicle and where two batteries will be located under the floor, but also casually mention that the lithium-ion battery will likely be around 300 volts. While it’s low for a BEV package, it’s perfectly suited for a hybrid. The old Chevy Volt had a 350-volt pack, for example.

The design details of the two front power units are discussed in detail. Both are set to get the latest silicon carbide inverters, which is one of the key technologies Tesla uses to get the most mileage out of its cars. They will be mounted right on the engine, with thermal management thanks to a common cooling loop to reduce weight.

The aforementioned detail with the automatic transmission is interesting. Patent language is usually broad when it comes to things like this, but not here. The document that talks about the handover offers no alternatives. This distinguishes it from older patents that talk about an automated manual or full manual transmission that comes with a similar setup, possibly in a smaller car. It is possible that these patents really refer to two separate cars; a Miata-like roadster and a larger automatic-only GT car, likely powered by the automaker’s new six-cylinder engine. That’s what I personally want to believe, of course, but there are other details to support it.

The series of patents published by Mazda on the subject all point to an exhaust system routed down the car’s central tunnel under the driveshaft, mostly because there are few other good places to put it thanks to the batteries. Other documents describe routing it down the rocker panel, but this center configuration seems to have won out. Many of these documents also mention an angled center tunnel not seen in earlier patents related to a possibly smaller Miata-like vehicle.

There’s no mention of a rotary engine in these things, so don’t get too excited. However, I want to highlight how many patents Mazda has filed for this particular layout and beyond. Everything from the smallest details of the hybrid system to the exhaust system and body structure is detailed in dozens of documents. Similarly, broader patents on methods of constructing apparently sports cars have been published for months in the United States, Europe and Japan. Patents are no sure guarantee of manufacturing intent, that should be clear, but it’s a lot of smoke if there’s no fire. Many more have gone into production with far less patent data, and knowing that a next-gen Miata is coming while Mazda is taking electrification seriously, it would be strange if what we see here isn’t indicative of cars to come.

Have a tip or question for the author? You can find them here: [email protected]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *