The fifth-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata may well be a battery-electric vehicle. Motortrend reports that the Japanese automaker, builder of one of the Internet’s most beloved vehicles, has decided the next version will be electrified, although it’s still deciding to what extent. Mazda is on the way to electrifying its entire product range by 2030, but the next MX-5 is due sooner than that and should be in showrooms in 2025.
Since 1989, the MX-5 has reminded drivers worldwide that you don’t need masses of power and torque to enjoy driving. Across four generations of cars, the recipe has remained constant: two seats, with an engine in the front driving the wheels at the back—preferably via a manual gearbox. Low mass has always been a Miata virtue, endowing the car with not just precise handling but also an abstemious appetite for tires and fuel.
As the former owner of a first-gen (aka NA) Miata, I am always amazed upon driving a new one (currently the ND or fourth-gen) to find that Mazda’s engineers have kept the ride and handling so similar. Wheels and brakes have gotten larger, and the gearbox has added an extra forward ratio, but the only unfamiliar bit to someone from 20 or 30 years ago would be the infotainment screen, which now brings the welcome addition of CarPlay.
An electric MX-5 probably sounds like anathema to many Miata devotees. Electric motors aren’t the problem—they’re small and light and make lots of torque. Batteries are the problem. Even with all the options, a current MX-5 weighs just 2,403 lbs (937 kg), which is practically unheard of these days. But a 300-mile battery will almost certainly add much more mass than is freed up from losing the internal combustion engine and transmission. Even a smaller battery pack would add many more pounds to the diminutive sports car, something the driver will surely notice under braking.
For clues to a potential EV MX-5, refer to last year’s Vision Study Model concept car.
Motortrend says Mazda is working with Rohm to develop its electric powertrains and that Envision AESC will supply its batteries. But the Mazda board in Hiroshima has yet to decide if a full BEV is the way to go versus a plug-in hybrid EV or perhaps just a plain hybrid. I expect either of those options would also add more mass and complexity. But a parallel hybrid might be our last chance for an MX-5 with a manual gearshift.