The Mazda MX-30 has a predicted range of between 125 and 150 miles on its 35.5kWh – which isn't very far in the scheme of things. When most people are used to cars that are capable of 400-odd miles on a tank, more than halving that is going to be a difficult pill to swallow for many. It also begs the question as to why Mazda has gone down this route.
First and foremost on Mazda's list of reasons is that when you average out the daily distance driven across Europe, it amounts to less than 30 miles. A typical commute in the UK is around ten miles. Even in the States the average driver will only do 37 miles on any given day. In this context, the MX-30s range is more than enough to satisfy day-to-day use, and when you think of people's charging habits, such as plugging in at home or work, the chances are they'll very rarely have to get close to using the car's total range.
However, people are creatures of habit and over the course of 80-odd years getting used to internal combustion, these habits are fairly well ingrained. Range anxiety is one of the biggest barriers to people switching over to an EV. Research by the AA which asked non-EV owners their opinions on EVs found that 76 per cent didn't think that they could go far enough on a single charge.
The most obvious way for manufacturers to overcome this barrier is to increase the range of their EVs, albeit this naturally increases price – a tough call when 76 per cent in the AA study thought they were too expensive. Research by DrivingElectric.com found that over a third expected a range of more than 300 miles, meaning they'd need to be shelling out for a higher-end EV. Another third would accept a range of up to 300 miles, which at the upper end is still pushing it for most mainstream manufacturer cars.
Interestingly, research in the USA found that among people who'd already owned an EV, range was far less of a concern than for those who were new to the technology. This goes to show that the opinion we hold, whereby people soon get used to owning an EV and how best to make it fit into their routine, stands true. And other manufacturers are realising this, with Ford, for example, creating a microsite that it hoped would help educate those wary of going from ICE to EV.
Speaking to Automotive News, Mazda not only reiterated that it was fulfilling car owners' genuine needs; it also went on the offensive and suggested that a smaller battery is a “responsible” battery from an environmental point of view. It contends that an MX-30 over its entire life-cycle, and even with a battery replacement at 100,000 miles, would have a similar CO2 cost as a diesel Mazda 3.
Mazda cites the increased carbon debt that a larger battery creates during production and also looks at the source of electricity being used to charge EV batteries. Using the 2016 average CO2 emissions created through energy generation in the EU, its findings make a compelling case.
Except its case is misleading.
First a foremost, most manufacturers are rapidly cleaning up their act, as we recently reported. The VW ID.3, for example, leaves the factory carbon neutral. Furthermore, the International Council on Clean Transport, which we cited, shows that in all circumstances EVs are cleaner. And that was a conservative study with many others going further in stating just how much better for the environment EVs are.
Yet another factor that Mazda's assertion doesn't take into account is the fact that consumers have choice in the tariffs they use for their power at home. Our recent guide to EV-friendly energy tariffs gave a breakdown of what suppliers are doing not only to offer competitively priced power for EVs, but also environmentally-friendly power. All of the tariffs we looked at, for example, were derived from 100 per cent renewable energy sources. Even on-street charging stations are increasingly getting their energy from renewables.
Mazda's environmental 'selling point' seems like a non-starter. We'd go as far as to say that it could be viewed as a cynical way of guilt tripping an unwary public into an EV which isn't necessarily right for them. The Japanese brand has been slow into the EV market and begrudging along the way, so perhaps there's a latency of positive opinion around EVs within the brand. But in a world which is in a climate emergency, it's more important than ever for manufacturers to be squeaky clean in what they're communicating.
On the plus side, we certainly have time for Mazda's assertion that its MX-30's range is ample for most people, most of the time. The car itself looks good and shouldn't cost the earth. Other brands are also going down the lower range route, such as MINI, Honda and Hyundai with its 39.2kWh Kona EV. With most new EV owners soon realising that range isn't the big deal that it can seem to be on paper, there may in time be a growing market for small range EVs rather than the race for range that we're seeing at the other end of the spectrum.