Mazda to launch electric car; aims for city commuters

Japanese automaker Mazda says it is developing an electric vehicle for city commuters in Japan with a target date of 2012.

Sitting quietly on the sidelines until now, automaker Mazda on Tuesday announced that it is independently developing an electric vehicle.

The EV, which will be based on its Demio subcompact car, is expected to have a driving range of about 200 kilometers, or approx. 124 miles.

Mazda says it will begin leasing the car in Japan in spring 2012, mainly to local government bodies and fleet customers.

The company says it plans to progressively introduce electric components such as regenerative braking and hybrid systems to its vehicles.

Most recently, Mazda debuted its "eco-friendly" SKYACTIV tech, the umbrella brand for a new series of internal combustion engines and transmissions geared toward fuel efficiency, rather than strict performance.

The company also says it is continuing research and development efforts into EVs designed for customers with short city commutes. Through the new EV lease program, the Japanese automaker hopes to gain insight into how customers use EVs in the real world.

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