The 2014 Mazda6 will match the class-leading Nissan Altima’s fuel economy of 38 MPG highway in part because it uses an electricity capture and storage system called i-ELOOP to power electrical accessories, Mazda said.
According to the press release from Mazda, i-ELOOP is derived from “Intelligent Energy Loop” and works a lot like the regenerative braking systems you’re probably familiar with if you’ve spent any amount of time piloting a hybrid vehicle. When the brakes are applied, the car’s kinetic energy is captured and stored in a capacitor as electricity. Instead of directing that electricity toward motive force like a hybrid, however, the Mazda6 i-ELOOP system directs it to powering electrical accessories such as headlights, climate control, and audio systems, the release said.
Mazda North American Operations President and CEO Jim O’Sullivan said, “Mazda is again changing the game of automotive engineering, this time making fuel efficiency not seem as a compromise but a true complementary feature as part of the complete vehicle package. With the addition of i-ELOOP, the 2014 Mazda6 will achieve the best mileage for a non-hybrid midsize sedan. But fuel economy isn’t the sole focus of our engineering and design teams, as being a leader in dynamics, design and safety create a win-win for the company and consumers.”
In the traditional electric power setup found in most engines, an alternator always powers the car’s electrical accessories and has to be turned by the engine’s accessory drive belt. Much like the air conditioning that is also driven by that belt, the alternator puts a drag on the engine and can marginally reduce fuel economy. The release said when i-ELOOP is engaged, the Mazda6 alternator is “free-wheeling, creating almost no parasitic drag on the engine, which reduces the amount of fuel used.”
Upon vehicle deceleration, the engine and alternator continue to spin as the vehicle slows down, working off of the vehicle’s inertia. To take advantage of this free energy, i-ELOOP’s special variable-voltage alternator kicks in and generates short bursts of electricity that is stored within the capacitor. The capacitor then meters power out into a smooth, continuous flow to satisfy energy loads.
While the increased engine braking caused by the hard-charging alternator is too small for drivers to feel, the smooth power delivery coming from the capacitor means the electrical systems do not operate differently with i-ELOOP. Exact fuel savings will vary based on electrical load and individual driving habits.