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

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
mazda going mostly sparkless with skyactiv x gasoline engines starting in 2019

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]

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  • 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.

  • NormSV650 I had a 2014 Vsport back in the day. It have a quiver feeling over some bumps in turns. Currently have a 2018 CT6 it is very solid and a great driver's car for the size.
  • NormSV650 I had a 2014 Vsport back in the day. It have a quiver feeling over some bumps in turns. Currently have a 2018 CT6 it is very solid and a great driver's car for the size.
  • MaintenanceCosts I saw my first IS500 out in the wild today (a dark-grey-on-black example) and it struck me that it was much more AMG-like than this product. (Great-looking and -sounding car.)
  • ToolGuy
  • Art Vandelay Props for trying something different. EVs should work well in this sort of race. The similar series running ICE run short distances like that