Mazda Motor announced this week it has become the world's first automaker to commercialize a compression ignition gasoline engine, meaning it ignites the fuel-air mixture without the need of spark plugs, just through compression, like a diesel engine. This is a technology its rivals have been pursuing for decades with no positive results so far.
The new engine, called Skyactiv-X, is 20 to 30% more fuel efficient than the Japanese automaker's current models, and its fuel economy potentially matches that of a diesel engine without high emissions of nitrogen oxides or sooty particulates. However, Mazda's engine employs spark plugs under certain conditions, such as at low temperatures.
Mazda's focus on combustion engines contrasts with its rivals' embrace of electric vehicles, but the Japanese automaker says it expects 85% of vehicles sold in 2035 worldwide will still use internal combustion engines, as a greater share of car sales will come from developing countries that have little or no infrastructure for electric vehicles, such as charging stations and extensive power networks. The company plans to sell cars with the new engine starting 2019.
Mazda already builds about 230,000 Skyactiv engines per year in Salamanca, Guanajuato, which are supplied to the Mazda2 and Mazda3 models, as well as the Yaris iA sedan that Mazda builds for Toyota at the adjacent assembly plant. Those engines do not feature the new compression ignition technology yet.