True extended-range electric vehicles with combustion engines that never directly power the wheels are rare. Before you scroll past this entire article straight to the comments section, no, the Chevrolet Volt isn’t one because its engine is occasionally hooked up to drive the wheels. The recently unveiled 2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger is an EREV, though, and its V6 engine and smaller battery make it interesting to a much broader audience than the pure-electric Ram 1500 REV. It makes a lot of sense for towing too.

Mazda makes a real extended-range EV in the form of the MX-30 R-EV, which I got to drive for a few days. I developed strong opinions about it. If you’ve been following this website for a few years, you may remember that I tested the original all-electric Mazda MX-30 back in 2021. I also did a 70-mph winter range test, which ended after just 84 miles. I had to crawl along at no more than 50 mph for the last few miles with the amber turtle lighting up in the gauge cluster.

While I liked the MX-30 for the way it looked, its unusual interior with cork details, and its driving manners, its range wasn't enough. The pure BEV version of the model had a 35-kWh battery pack with a usable capacity of 30.5 kWh, giving it an EPA range of 92 miles. The 124-mile WLTP estimate always seemed very optimistic, virtually impossible to achieve outside laboratory tests.

That’s why I was quite excited to get behind the wheel of the MX-30 R-EV, which has half the battery capacity of the pure-electric model (17.8 kWh gross, about 15 kWh usable), as well as a 13.2-gallon tank to fuel its rotary range extender. Since there is no plan to sell the extended-range version in the US, it doesn’t have an EPA-estimated range, but in Europe, it should cover up to 423 miles on a full battery and tank on the WLTP cycle (I never saw more than 280 miles of predicted range).

The Engine Never Drives The Wheels

Mazda MX-30 R-EV

Just like the BMW i3 REx or the Ramcharger, the MX-30 RE-V has no way for its combustion engine to power the wheels directly. It is an 830cc single-rotor Wankel unit located under the MX-30’s quite long hood. You hear it start up regularly as you drive the car, although this also depends on the selected driving mode, of which there are three.

It has a Normal mode, which lets the vehicle decide when to charge the battery. In this mode, you won’t hear the engine start up unless you floor it, but it will start once the state of charge dips below 45 percent. It’s worth noting that the MX-30 R-EV’s claimed WLTP electric-only range is 53 miles, but during my time with the vehicle (with temperatures hovering a few degrees above freezing point), it never displayed a range of more than 30 miles.

The EV mode forces the vehicle to use up more of the available electrons, and it will keep the engine off until you hit about 20 percent state of charge, when it will start behaving much like it does in Normal mode. There is also a Charge mode, which allows you to set a desired state of charge, and the vehicle will keep the engine on for longer to keep topping up the battery.

Mazda MX-30 R-EV

While I had the car, I toggled between Normal and Charge modes quite regularly, although even with the latter selected for long stretches of driving, I never saw the state of charge go above 90 percent.

Hearing the small Wankel spin into life is unusual because it doesn’t sound like your typical engine. From the outside, it almost sounds like a quieter, well-muffled version of a two-stroke chainsaw engine that doesn’t rev very high and sits at a constant rpm. You hear when it starts, but it’s never rough-sounding, and I didn’t feel any noticeable vibrations make their way into the cabin even under hard acceleration. The car still makes a futuristic whooshing noise as you accelerate. It's an artificially generated sound that's more audible in EV mode, but you can still hear it with the engine on.

The Range Extender Makes The MX-30 Better, But Also Worse

Mazda MX-30 R-EV

Even though Mazda’s European blurbs brand the MX-30 R-EV as a plug-in hybrid, I suspect that’s simply because the average buyer wouldn’t know what an extended-range EV is, and PHEVs are more common and better understood.

On the move, it feels like an EV, not a PHEV, and the driving experience is almost identical to that of the BEV variant. It’s still a single-motor, front-wheel-drive car, but Mazda has upped its power from 143 horsepower to 168 horsepower, which, despite the R-EV’s extra weight, shaves six-tenths off the sprint time from 0 to 62 mph; it drops to 9.1 seconds. Torque is the same for both variants: 192 lb-ft. 

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The R-EV feels a bit quicker than the BEV, but the difference is minimal. Both variants top out at 87 mph, which is pretty low, especially if you plan on buying this vehicle in Germany with its de-restricted autobahns.

Show the MX-30 R-EV a twisty road, and it will reward you with its sharp and well-judged steering, its minimal body roll, and the pleasant surge of torque from its electric motor. The motor does a good job pulling this almost 4,000-pound vehicle out of corners; it almost feels nimble. I did notice that the electric motor’s response is not as immediate as in some other EVs, so when you put your foot down, the power delivery feels more gradual and similar to what you would experience in an ICE vehicle.

Mazda MX-30 R-EV

Much of what I experienced during my time with the MX-30 was almost identical to what I remember from my original drive almost three years ago. This is a pleasant vehicle to be aboard and drive. It has a relatively cramped back seat with slightly awkward access and not a lot of cargo room, but it's charming.

The big change for me was that the battery meter was no longer scary in the R-EV. In the fully electric model, I was always glancing down at the range prediction. As much as I liked the MX-30 during my initial drive, it was marred by the range anxiety that I felt while I had the car.

With the onboard generator, though, this is not something you think about anymore. I just drove this like a normal car and only charged it once to see how close it came to reaching its maximum charging rate of 36 kW. It’s quite slow for an EV, but perfectly acceptable for a PHEV. It pulled about 26 kW from a 50 kW station with about 35 percent state of charge, but I had not prepared the battery for charging and, at that point, temperatures had dipped below freezing.

Gallery: Mazda MX-30 R-EV

While my experience with the R-EV was a lot more pleasant than with the BEV, I can’t help but think that many people who buy it will never plug it in. This is a problem with all plug-in hybrids and EREVs. Used like this, the R-EV won’t come anywhere near achieving its claimed 235 mpg (1 l/100km) efficiency, although it should still average a respectable 32 mpg with a flat battery.

When BMW increased the size of the i3’s battery pack, it also decided to ditch the range extender option, so perhaps Mazda should have done the same with the MX-30 and simply not bothered with the tiny Wankel generator. The pure electric MX-30’s battery was quite small, and no matter how much Mazda insisted it was enough, buyers shunned the model to the point where you hardly ever see one on the road here in Europe.

Maybe what it really needed was a bigger battery and more range, not an EREV variant, as cool as it is with its unique rotary engine.

The R-EV variant should sell better, especially since it costs the same as the BEV, which is still sold on the Old Continent. It makes sense for people looking to buy a plug-in hybrid, but the BEV variant will remain just as unattractive for pure EV buyers. In fact, the R-EV makes the standard MX-30 look even less appealing.

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