Although it appears that the internal combustion engine, invented 150 years ago, is in its twilight years, Mazda still believes it is a viable powerplant for motor vehicles. With its SKYACTIV engines and technology introduced in 2011, it has shown that not only can greater fuel efficiency be achieved but increased outputs and emission regulations can still be met.

And if you thought that the SKYACTIV engines of this decade would be gone by the next decade and replaced by powerplants that do not have internal combustion, Mazda has revealed that it will continue to offer such engines. Announcing ‘Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030’, a new long-term vision for technology development that looks ahead to the year 2030, the company provides preliminary details of a next-generation engine called SKYACTIV-X that will be available in 2019. Assuming that there will be a series of engines to follow, that would be that Mazda will continue to sell vehicles with internal combustion engines through the next decade.

SKYACTIV-X will be the world’s first commercial petrol engine to use compression ignition, in which the fuel-air mixture ignites spontaneously when compressed by the piston. A proprietary combustion method called Spark Controlled Compression Ignition overcomes two issues that had impeded commercialization of compression ignition petrol engines: maximizing the zone in which compression ignition is possible and achieving a seamless transition between compression ignition and spark ignition.

The new SKYACTIV-X engine will use compression ignition, just like a diesel engine, but the description of the proprietary combustion method suggests that spark plugs will still be present.

This new proprietary combustion engine combines the advantages of petrol and diesel engines to achieve outstanding environmental performance, power and acceleration performance. Compression ignition plus the use of a supercharger is expected to improve fuel economy while delivering stronger engine response and increase torque by 10 – 30% over the current SKYACTIV-G petrol engine.

Compression ignition makes possible a super lean burn that improves engine efficiency up to 20 – 30% over the current SKYACTIV-G, and from 35 – 45% over Mazda’s 2008 petrol engine of the same displacement. The new engine is said to even equal or exceed the latest SKYACTIV-D turbodiesel engine in fuel efficiency.

With high efficiency across a wide range of engine rpms and loads, the engine allows much more latitude in the selection of gear ratios, providing both superior fuel economy and driving performance.

Since Mazda is extending the life of the internal combustion engine, perhaps it will also continue to offer manual transmissions?

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[Chips Yap]

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