Mazda has reinvented the wheel. Or rather, they claim they have reinvented the engine which drives that wheel.
They have engineered a ‘SkyActiv-X’ series of engines which purportedly use game-changing technologies which they believe will save the combustion engine from its seemingly inevitable demise.
The new engines use ‘Homogenous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI)’. It is thought to be the ‘holy grail’ of combustible engines in a world which demands lower emissions.
SkyActiv-X shuffles between diesel engine compression and common spark ignition combustion engines in a best-of-both-worlds approach. They have assigned a name to this process; Spark Controlled Compression Ignition.
Mazda explains that this process of jumping between two kinds of compression can ensure that the engine works 20 to 30 percent more efficiently than its predecessors. HCCI engines are superior to that of standard gasoline and diesel engines because they remain cooler, resulting in a reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions.
The Mazda Motor Corporation has developed this next-generation engine to fit into their new long-term strategy aptly named ‘Sustainable Zoom Zoom 2030’. In terms of the details, however, Mazda is playing its cards close to its chest. As the cars near their release dates in late 2018, early 2019 more should emerge.
The question that persists with HCCI development is whether or not governments will trust further iterations of combustible engines as the world’s environmentalists call for the advancement of electrification.
Is it all for naught?
Britain has joined the list of countries determined to move to electric vehicles. They plan to ban the sales of petrol and diesel cars (and vans) from 2040 in an effort to curb nitrogen oxide levels in the country.
“Poor air quality is the biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK and this government is determined to take strong action in the shortest time possible. That is why we are providing councils with new funding to accelerate development of local plans, as part of an ambitious £3 billion program to clean up dirty air around our roads,” a government spokesperson said.
Governments have traditionally veered away from nuclear energy due to high profile incidents. Similarly, due to an increasing deluge of bad press, there is an increasing tendency to reject technologies that use ‘combustion’ and ‘engine’ in the same sentence. Furthermore, claiming to commit to a future of safer, electric-powered vehicles is a politically savvy decision at present.
The war against combustion engines could make Mazda’s last ditch effort for the ideal internal combustion engine an engineering non-starter. Mazda’s Research and Development head Kiyoshi Fujiwara says: “Electrification is necessary but...the internal combustion engine should come first.”
Germany’s Angela Merkel, despite the pressure of world-renowned German automotive engineering companies, has also issued statements pointing to the retiring of internal combustion engine technologies. In a recent speech she said:
“Large sections of the auto industry have gambled away unbelievable amounts of trust. This is trust that only the auto industry can restore. And when I say ‘the industry’ that is the company leaders.”
Critics, however, say that the move to electrification in Germany may cause 900,000 job losses in the country. What remains clear is that the pressure on phasing out the internal combustion engine vehicle for the next big thing in vehicle engineering technology is going to be a bumpy road.
Asthana, Anushka, and Matthew Taylor. "Britain to Ban Sale of All Diesel and Petrol Cars and Vans from 2040." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 25 July 2017. Web. 16 Aug. 2017.
Jamieson, Craig. "Here's How Mazda Plans to save the Internal Combustion Engine." Top Gear. Top Gear, 08 Aug. 2017. Web. 16 Aug. 2017.