Home » Toyota, Mazda, And Subaru Will Electrify Their Lineups With… Tiny Engines

Toyota, Mazda, And Subaru Will Electrify Their Lineups With… Tiny Engines

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Is everyone here old enough to remember the iPod Nano? Or maybe the Tata Nano? There was a period in time when the big impetus in technology was just to make things small. In some ways, that’s back with a trio of Japanese automakers that are attempting to push new, smaller engines as the future of greening their respective lineups.

Toyota got it right when it indexed heavily in hybrids, at least for this period of history, and it looks like Subaru and Mazda are going to follow a similar playbook (both companies are partially owned by Toyota).

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Stellantis, in spite of all its bickering with Italy’s government, will build hybrid versions of its Fiat 500 and Jeep Compass in the country, as there’s been a global slowdown in EV sales.

With EV sales slowing down, and with Fisker possibly going kaput, it looks like contract manufacturer Magna Steyr thinks it can make some money creating localized versions of Chinese cars, which… maybe! And, finally, Tesla continues to show it doesn’t care as much about making cars anymore.

Japanese Automakers Show Off Smaller Motors

Subaru Hybrid Motor

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Lemme just start with the press release:

Subaru Corporation (Subaru), Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota), and Mazda Motor Corporation (Mazda) have each committed to developing new engines tailored to electrification and the pursuit of carbon neutrality. With these engines, each of the three companies will aim to optimize integration with motors, batteries, and other electric drive units. While transforming vehicle packaging with more compact engines, these efforts will also decarbonize ICEs by making them compatible with various carbon-neutral (CN) fuels.

Ignoring the bit about biofuels, this is all out of the Toyota’s “multi-pathway” approach to de-carbonization, which is a realization that not everyone is going to be able to jump for EVs immediately. I’ve been calling 2024 the “Year of the Hybrid” but, given the timeline for these motors to go in cars for many years to come, perhaps it was better stated as the Decade of the Hybrid.

In pursuing decarbonization, all three companies have focused on carbon as the enemy and sought to expand options by acting with passion and purpose. This mindset has driven efforts to ensure a future for the supply chains and jobs that underpin engines. Under the extreme conditions of racing, the companies have worked to broaden powertrain and fuel options by competing with vehicles running on liquid hydrogen and CN fuels.

This process has clarified the role that future engines will play in achieving carbon neutrality. With the next generation of engines, the three companies will seek to not only improve standalone engine performance but also optimize their integration with electric drive units, harnessing the advantages of each.

After years of companies basically pretending like engines didn’t exist and showing off as many EVs as possible, the existence of a “next generation” family of engines is interesting.

So what are these motors?  One is a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder that’s meant to replace the current M15 engine of families and weighs about 10% less. The new 2.0-liter inline-four will replace Toyota’s current 2.4-liter and 2.5-liter engines used in larger vehicles.

The trick with both of these engines is that they’re designed specifically to package with electric motors and hybrid drive units from the factory. That’s the whole point. Additionally, they’re meant to have a lower profile so they fit better underhood, for improved packaging and aerodynamics. And, finally, yada yada e-fuels.

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The first vehicle shown that has this system is the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid prototype, though it does make me wonder if the same setup is going into the 2026 Subaru Forester Hybrid we’re hoping to see soon.

Stellantis Will Reportedly Build Hybrids In Italy

Spike Lee Fiat

The ongoing Stellantis family bickering with Italy has resulted in a moment of detente, as the automaker has agreed to build both a hybrid version of the Electric Fiat 500e and a hybrid version of the Jeep Compass.

Per Reuters:

Fiat owner Stellantis said on Monday it would build a hybrid version of its 500e small electric car at its Mirafiori plant in Turin, Italy, amid a slowdown in electric car sales.
The announcement came after Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares met in Turin with union representatives who had long been asking the company to boost production at Fiat’s historic home with a new high-volume, cheaper model.

The turning of an electric car back into a hybrid, as is planned with the Fiat 500, is a weird move and goes to show that all automakers are sort of reconsidering their platforms.

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Magna-Steyr Might Make Chinese Cars In Europe

Graz Magna Suedost
Photo: Magna

Europe, like the United States, is worried about an influx of Chinese-built electric cars that would destroy their economies. The difference between the United States and Europe, however, is that Chinese cars are already there.

Rather than get into another fight over tariffs, BYD is already planning to build a plant in Hungary. But what if building a whole plant is a big leap? Why not do what a lot of European automakers already do and have Austria’s Magna Steyr build the car for you?

According to Automotive News Europe, that’s already a conversation:

“Over the past 12 months, we have seen very strong activity from all of the Chinese OEMs who are contacting us and who want and need to localize,” Magna Steyr President Roland Prettner said during a media event at its plant, where models such as the Mercedes-Benz G-Class are made. “We are in discussions right now.”

As well as “looking at what role we can play” the subsidiary of Magna International can “help them to have a manufacturing site here in Europe,” Prettner said.

“Chinese OEMs are testing with different distributors about what they think the volume of their vehicles in Europe could be. Of course, there is always the discussion about how we can produce these vehicles here in Graz,” he said.

This makes a lot of sense. Maybe a Chinese automaker should just buy the remaining husk of Fisker and keep making Oceans out of Graz, but with better software.

Tesla Walks Back Future Manufacturing Plans

Tesla Investor Day Gigafactorytexas 02
Photo: Tesla

While Tesla may have popularized gigacasting and structural battery packs, it turns out that Tesla isn’t so interested in that anymore. This seems to be a common theme these days and there’s an Automotive News piece that sums up a lot of what’s been going on lately.

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Most importantly, this piece points out that everyone else is going to start duplicating (and maybe even expanding) what Tesla created in the last decade:

Tesla’s rivals, including Toyota and Volvo, are already developing their own gigacasting abilities for future products. And the adoption of structural battery packs and parts consolidation is widespread among EV makers trying to match or beat Tesla’s production costs. The idea of a new assembly process that could profitably make a $25,000 EV also grabbed their attention, Fiorani said.

“The unboxing process kind of lit a fire under the industry,” Fiorani said. “The idea that there could be a different way to build these vehicles, especially if they don’t entail an internal combustion engine, got the industry excited.”

Tesla did an impressive amount of engineering in the teens, but I’m not sure there’s a moat around much of that tech anymore, especially with many of those execs leaving the company.

What I’m Listening To This Morning

I’m a big Andrew Bird fan and it’s nice to see the violinist/singer/guitarist/whistler going back to his jazz roots with something that feels pleasingly classic.

The Big Question

Where would you put these tiny motors? [Ed Note: I’d use them as range extenders. -DT]

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Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
22 days ago

“After years of companies basically pretending like engines didn’t exist and showing off as many EVs as possible, the existence of a “next generation” family of engines is interesting.”

Toyota, Mazda nor Subaru are guilty of that.

“Where would you put these tiny motors? ”

“One is a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder that’s meant to replace the current M15 engine of families and weighs about 10% less. The new 2.0-liter inline-four will replace Toyota’s current 2.4-liter and 2.5-liter engines used in larger vehicles.”

1.5-2.0L constitutes “tiny”?

Last edited 22 days ago by Cheap Bastard
Peter DeTonnancourt
Peter DeTonnancourt
23 days ago

Engines, my good sir. Engines. Sigh.

Rod Millington
Rod Millington
23 days ago

Come for the Dump, stay for the Bird.

Davidsaur
Davidsaur
23 days ago

Where would I put one of these engines?

PHEV 4Runner that gets decent gas mileage.

They got SO CLOSE with the new hybrid 4Runner, but just far enough that I still can’t justify buying one. If they offer one with electric-only range of maybe 40+ miles and 30+ MPG on gas mode then it will be the first brand new vehicle I ever buy. I don’t expect that kind of mileage towing or off-roading on giant mud tires, but putzing around town in the summer on all-seasons I should be able to get better than 22 MPG.

Kody Dagley
Kody Dagley
23 days ago

If they bring the hybrid 500 over here as they are the new 500e and it’s cheaper than the 500e, I’d be tempted….I do love a small car and have always liked the 500!

JerryLH3
JerryLH3
23 days ago

Whoa, talk about burying the lede. You mention two of the three engines, but not the third – what appears to be Mazda’s 16X two rotor. Mazda has talked about using REs as generators for electric cars and has finally started to do so. But they have done that with a one rotor engine, the 8C. What on earth would you need a two rotor generator for?

Unless…

Dangerous_Daveo
Dangerous_Daveo
23 days ago
Reply to  JerryLH3

Mate, don’t… Hope is a dangerous thing!

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