Mazda unveiled a hybrid version of its Mazda 2 hatchback for Europe this past week, billed as “fully self-charging” what’s under the hood.
Confused? What the Mazda 2 Hybrid has is an application of Toyota’s familiar hybrid system, as has already been offered in the closely related Yaris Hybrid – none of which is currently offered in the US.
The “full self-charging” descriptor is probably misleading on multiple levels, and that’s not a new problem. At first glance, that sounds like a nod to Tesla’s controversial “fully self-driving” driver-assistance feature set. Second, it is a marketing ploy that Toyota and Lexus have already tried in Europe and across the region, much to the chagrin of EV fans and consumer groups.
In addition, the term likely suggests that companies are hacking into a type of perpetual motion machine, or that it involves solar cell or inductive charging, which is not the case. It also inspires savvy buyers to double-take and wonder what they miss out on the typical full-hybrid tech that Toyota has been offering for over 20 years.
Lexus NX Self-Charging Hybrid – Norway Customer Site – January 2020
In late 2019, the National Consumer Authority in EV-savvy Norway stepped into Lexus’ campaign using the same language and found it misleading that affiliate marketing described electricity as essentially free, while spending it on gas pumps. After changing its language to remove it, Lexus continues to use it “Self-charging hybrid” Prominent on its UK and European sites, but in the US it seems to be retiring the “always charged” motto – perhaps with the pending arrival of the NX 450h plug-in hybrid.
In this case, the Mazda 2 features a 1.5-liter inline-3 gasoline engine with a 79-hp (59-kw) electric motor as part of Toyota’s planet-based hybrid system, producing a combined 114 hp.
Mazda 2 Hybrid (Euro Spec)
“Battery power levels are constantly operated by engine-powered generators to eliminate any need to recharge the system from an external source,” says Mazda, further down the line, cleverly avoiding references to free electricity.
While we know that plug-in vehicles are desirable, we hope that Mazda, Lexus, or others will never bring this to the U.S. when a surprising portion of consumers are already facing difficult times. There is a confusing part. Choose the difference between the three types of “electrified” vehicles – hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric model. In a recent presentation, Michael Tripp, VP of Toyota North America for Marketing and Communication, mentioned his own 2021 BEV Awareness Survey, which found that 75% of consumers either felt the need to plug in a hybrid, or weren’t sure enough. As a challenge, it combines its prime plug-in hybrid with other hybrids.
Right now all this self-charging messaging is focused on Europe. To its credit, Mazda in the U.S. is explicitly calling its vehicle types – for example the upcoming MX-30 as a “series of plug-in hybrids with rotary generators”. Mazda has a hybrid en route to the US, including a newer version CX-50. Let’s hope they choose to save charging talk for cars that need to be plugged in.