Electric powertrains are important, but combustion engines should come first.
That message came today from Mazda R&D head Kiyoshi Fujiwara as his company announced that it had developed the world’s first marketable compression ignition system for a gasoline-fueled engine.
Yes, you heard that right—a gasoline engine that runs like a diesel, otherwise known as a homogeneous charge compression ignition, or HCCI.
The fuel efficiency of the SKYACTIV-X engine exceeds all other current Mazda engines by 20 to 30 percent and it even equals or exceeds the fuel efficiency of the company’s latest SKYACTIV-D diesel engine. Couple that with outstanding emissions performance, power and acceleration performance and Mazda has reason to celebrate—but wait…what about torque? Oh yeah, the numbers are up on that, too.
“Compression ignition and a supercharger fitted to improve fuel economy together deliver unprecedented engine response and increase torque 10 to 30 percent over the current SKYACTIV-G gasoline engine,” Mazda reports in its press release.
Talk about a David and Goliath twist…the world’s largest OEMs, including GM and Daimler AG, have been attempting for years what Mazda, a much smaller company, says it has done.
“A proprietary combustion method called Spark Controlled Compression Ignition overcomes two issues that had impeded commercialization of compression ignition gasoline engines: maximizing the zone in which compression ignition is possible and achieving a seamless transition between ignition and spark ignition,” the Mazda press release continues.
SKYACTIV-X will be hitting the market in 2019 in Mazda cars. (During the press conference in Hiroshima this morning, a crossover SUV was displayed on screen.) Mazda said it will not be offering the engine to other OEMs.
Fujiwara made it clear how Mazda feels about their latest engine advancement over electric powertrain development, something it’s also pursuing through a recently announced partnership with Toyota.
“We think it is an imperative and fundamental job for us to pursue the ideal internal combustion engine,” Mazda R&D head Kiyoshi Fujiwara told reporters, according to Reuters. “Electrification is necessary but…the internal combustion engine should come first.”
Is it possible that SKYACTIV-X will ever make it into a pickup? You may recall that last year, Mazda and Isuzu announced a partnership to produce a new pickup. While details remain scant, it’s clear that the truck will bear a Mazda badge and that there are no current plans to sell the pickup here in the U.S. Powertrain plans for the truck have not been released, but come on! A new pickup with a new gasoline engine that runs like a diesel?! Why not?
Don’t forget that Mazda once offered its rotary engine in a pickup in the U.S. and Canada. The Wankle-equipped truck dubbed the Rotary Pickup, or REPU, was offered from 1974-1977. Roughly 15,000 of the trucks were sold. Though it was more powerful than the typical small pickup of that time, its gas guzzling habit didn’t go over well during the 1970s oil crisis. (It’s hard to forget those long lines and how aggravating it was for Dad to finally make it to the pump. Of course, having a ’69 Olds with a 455 Rocket didn’t help any).