Mazda Going (Mostly) Sparkless With Skyactiv-X Gasoline Engines, Starting in 2019

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

There’ll still be spark ignition available, but Mazda doesn’t expect you’ll get a whole lot of use out of it. With its just-revealed Skyactiv-X engine technology, the gasoline-loving automaker has added a new way of making power to the automotive realm: the compression ignition gas engine.

It’s something we’ve known about for a while, but today saw its confirmation. Mazda’s Skyactiv-X engine, bound for its vehicle lineup in 2019, adopts technology forever associated with diesel engines and combines it with a lighter, much cleaner fuel. Apparently, going green needn’t require batteries and AC motors.

Never mind that partnership with Toyota and talk of shared electric vehicle development. This new engine plays a starring role in the company’s long-term technology plan — a vision Mazda dubs “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030.”

The engine, a world-first, achieves a “super lean burn” through use of sparkless compression ignition, coupled with a supercharger. In certain conditions — like cold-weather startups, for example — the mill employs spark to ignite the compressed fuel-air charge.

According to the automaker, “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 compression ignition and spark ignition.”

Mazda anticipates the combination of compression ignition and supercharging should boost responsiveness, increasing torque levels by 10 to 30 percent over today’s Skyactiv-G gasoline engines. Generous thrust in every gear seems another high point.

Of course, power isn’t the main goal here. To keep gasoline as a viable fuel (and reduce the need for pricey hybrid and electric vehicle R&D), engineers needed to ensure the company’s future engines used as little of it as possible. And Mazda does plan to continue using gasoline engines — even beyond the year 2050.

We’ll have to wait for real-world confirmation, but Mazda anticipates a fuel economy boost of 20 to 30 percent over the Skyactiv-G. Compared to a Mazda four-cylinder from a decade ago, that’s a 35- to 45-percent increase. The company even claims it “equals or exceeds” its Skyactiv diesel fuel efficiency. Based on estimates of the U.S.-bound diesel, the combined fuel efficiency of sparkless, gas-powered Mazdas could rise to the high 30-mpg range.

If true, who needs a hybrid?

There’s other less tasty tidbits contained in Mazda’s 2030 plan. As part of its effort to lower corporate emissions, the automaker will introduce electric vehicles and other electrified technology in regions with clean energy grids starting in 2019. We’ll also see an evolution of the brand’s Kodo design language, as well as the proliferation of its i-Activsense driver assist technology. By 2025, Mazda wants to see some form of autonomous driving capability in all of its vehicles.

[Image: Mazda]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

More by Steph Willems

Join the conversation
2 of 34 comments
  • La834 La834 on Aug 08, 2017

    So is this thing going to *sound* like a diesel engine? Or extreme pinging/knocking which is almost what it is?

  • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Aug 09, 2017

    A 2.5 litre diesel can already deliver over 350ftlb of torque easily. I wonder if the compression ignition gas engine will be lower revving than a spark ignited gas engine? If it is, then I do believe diesel will still be a better option ..... except the emissions side will need to be kept clean. But, a higher compression gasoline engine will also produce more NOx and I wonder if the injection system will also create more particulates than a GDI? So, I do hope this works out well for Mazda, but I also think diesel will be competitive, especially in the torque department.

  • MaintenanceCosts Why do you have to accept two fewer cylinders in your gas engine to get an electric motor? (This question also applies to the CX-90.)
  • Zipper69 Do they have unique technology that might interest another manufacturer?
  • Ger65690267 The reason for not keeping the Hemi is two fold, one is the emissions is too high, it would need a complete redesign to make it comply. The other is a need for a strong modern 6 cylinder within Stellantis portfolio of vehicles moving forward.They decided they rather invest in a I6 turbo which is designed to incorporate future electrification systems and not also updating their V8 engine. Unlike both GM & Ford, a brand constantly pushing smaller displacement turbo engines has decided to still keep V8s in their truck line up, because they know it's important to their core customers.GM has invested billions for their next gen small block V8s and Ford has already updated their 5.0L V8. However, Dodge and RAM which is a brand built on the Hemi name and having a V8 has decided to drop it. I think it's clearly a strategic misstep for RAM not to do the same for their trucks, Chargers/Challengers going forward.Stellantis relies heavily on the profits from their NA operations, I think they may not fully understood how important the Hemi was in their 1500 class trucks. On a side note, no one in the media seems to be noting that while the Hurricane S.O. puts out more hp/torque to the outgoing Hemi, that for some reason has lost both towing and payload capability.  
  • Ajla I'm going to whine about it. It should have a V8 available. Preferably a new one but at least offering the old one as a mid-level option. That this brand new engine outperforms something introduced 2003 and last updated in 2009 doesn't impress me. Also, journalists seem to be unaware that it is possible to add forced induction to a V8.
  • Calrson Fan I'll say it again, terrible business model doomed to fail. If your gonna build an EV PU the only market that makes sense to go after is fleets. How many other BEV companies are making money pushing only truck type vehicles?