Japanese Brands Show EV Sports Cars
The Tokyo Motor Show, held every two years, is the Japanese car industry’s showcase for its latest thinking. In 2023, the show rebranded itself as the Japan Mobility Show, broadening its focus from automobiles to a wider range of mobility products, services and technologies. In addition to concept and production cars, visitors got to see motorcycles, airplanes, and a diverse range of vehicles that look to the future of motorized transport.
Among the expected electrified family vehicles, city cars, and SUVs, what was interesting about the 2023 Japan Mobility show was a sports car renaissance. While the number of electrified vehicles available to the buying public increases seemingly by the day, the growth in sustainable vehicles has largely been isolated to family-friendly formats: electric sedans, hatchbacks, SUVs, and most recently, EV pickup trucks, with sports cars notably absent. But two new concept vehicles, the Mazda Iconic SP, and the Honda Prelude Concept, are proof that electrification won’t kill driving fun – and will, in fact, enhance it in the future.
Mazda Iconic SP
While Mazda says the Iconic SP is a “new type of sports car concept,” its visuals directly reference the brand’s greatest hits: the amazingly popular MX-5 Miata roadster and the legendary Mazda RX-7 two-seat sports car. Its proportions are beautiful: low and wide, and painted in a vibrant shade called Viola Red. Its body panels are curvaceous and organic, and its interior is beautifully pure and simple, focused on the driving experience. Unlike most modern EVs, giant touch screens and connectivity take a back seat: this is a car for people who love cars and who love driving.
Under its low, swooping hood, the Mazda Iconic SP has a unique and very interesting drivetrain. A compact rotary engine, one of Mazda’s engineering trademarks, can run on various kinds of carbon-neutral fuel including hydrogen. Compact and powerful, it generates electricity to charge an on-board battery, which powers the rear wheels. The advantage of Mazda’s system is its compact, flexible package which allowed the car’s engineers a high degree of flexibility when packaging the components: the little rotary engine sits under the hood, while the battery sits in the middle of the car, allowing the body to be low and sleek, and maintaining an excellent 50:50 weight distribution. Total power output is an impressive 370 hp, which should make the Iconic SP responsive and fun to drive on the road.
With two seats, wrap-around glass, and a gorgeous body, the Mazda Iconic SP continues Mazda’s tradition of delivering a human-centric joy of driving to its customers, even in the age of electrification. We hope that the company is bold enough to put it into production.
Honda Prelude Concept
Honda is also a company well-known for driving performance and enjoyment. Its hybrid engines are currently powering the Formula 1 championship-winning Red Bull racing cars, combining a compact and powerful gasoline engine with electric propulsion to produce huge horsepower with impressive reliability. And some of its sports car name plates – NSX and S2000 among others – are legends in their own right. Now, one of the company’s best-known sports coupes, the Prelude, is set to make a comeback, this time with hybrid power and the latest tech.
The choice to resurrect a well-known nameplate is a prescient one. The world “Prelude” means an “introductory or preceding performance,” and Honda says that the sleek white two-door will be the, uh, prelude, for future sports models that will take Honda’s passion for driving fun into the electrified future. It’s a specialty sports car that offers exhilarating performance while being practical and environmentally responsible.
So far, Honda is keeping quiet about the specific technical details of the new Prelude, other than saying it features a hybrid powertrain. But the company says that they are diligently progressing with development of new sports models, which bodes well for a production car in the near future.
Sports Cars: A New Age of Driving Fun
While some traditional sports car enthusiasts remain skeptical that electrified sports cars will deliver the same engagement as gasoline-powered models, electrification is actually a good fit for sports cars. The instantaneous torque provided by electric motors makes them much more responsive, with no waiting for revs to build or turbos to spool up, and innovative packages like the Mazda Iconic SP, which keep batteries compact and light, mean that electrification can be lightweight as well as powerful.
Plus, when you’re not out on the open road tearing up corners, you can sit in traffic guilt-free and emissions-free, cruising silently to your next destination.