Adding a bit more econo appeal to its all-new midsize sedan, the recently introduced 2014 Mazda Mazda6 is now being offered with the automaker's innovative i-Eloop (Intelligent Energy Loop) regenerative engine-braking system. Jim O'Sullivan, president and CEO of Mazda North America noted that when fitted with the optional i-ELOOP, this strikingly styled 4-door will boast the a 40-mpg EPA highway mileage figure, the best of any non-hybrid midsize sedan. Like other regenerative systems, Mazda's i-Eloop system functions by turning kinetic energy into storable electricity as the vehicle decelerates. That stored charge is then used to operate various electrical components, reducing the need for the engine to generate extra juice via the power-sapping alternator and thereby improving fuel economy. However, the Mazda system adds a unique twist of its own to the basic formula.
Key elements in Mazda's i-Eloop package include a special alternator with variable voltage -- 12 to 25 volts -- capability, a DC/DC converter, and a low-resistance/high-capacity electric double layer capacitor (EDLC). Unlike a conventional alternator that operates continuously to maintain a nominal 12-volt system load, the i-Eloop's alternative unit can free-wheel when the car is in cruise mode to virtually eliminate parasitic drag on the engine. As deceleration commences, the vehicle leverages its own inertia and the alternator kicks into an effective "ultra-charge" mode that sends short but intense bursts of electricity to the EDLC for short-term storage.
When that extra power is needed, the capacitor metes it out in a seamless manner. Mazda says the i-Eloop system is integrated in a manner that makes it completely transparent to the driver and one that allows all of the car's on-board electrics to operate normally at all times. While the i-Eloop does boost the EPA fuel economy ratings on the Mazda6's 2.5-liter/184-horsepower 4-cylinder engine from 26/38 mpg city/highway to 28/40 mpg when backed by the 6-speed automatic transmission, the automaker does caution those with a heavier right foot that "the exact fuel savings will vary based on electrical load and individual driving habits."
A mid-year pricing revamp that coincides with the introduction of i-Eloop, bumps the opening numbers on a 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Sport model to $21,785, while the Touring -- now available with a 6-speed manual transmission - starts at $24,440, and the auto-only Grand Touring commences at $30,490. However, i-Eloop is confined to the top-line Mazda6 variant, and then only as part of a new GT Technology Package that adds $2,080 to the bottom line. In addition to i-Eloop, the GT Technology Package includes a Lane Departure Warning System, High Beam Control, Mazda Radar Cruise Control, Forward Obstruction Warning, a Sport mode button and active grille shutters.
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