By on August 8, 2017

Mazda CX9 Skyactiv Turbo engine - Image: Mazda

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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34 Comments on “Mazda Going (Mostly) Sparkless with Skyactiv-X Gasoline Engines, Starting in 2019...”

  • avatar

    So they will all be supercharged? Sounds very interesting, and promising. More torques, moar POWAH. Still probably not bone crushing power of a V6, but still, nice overall.

    I just may have to try one out but would probably lease anything produced in the first few years of this tech. Don’t know if I would be willing to be a beta tester for this otherwise.

    That would mean Mazda’s current NA 2.5 could put out around 230 lb ft of torque. Not bad at all. Hopefully they resist the urge to downsize engines due to the increased power and efficiency.

    • 0 avatar

      I think there may be a possibility of the mazdaspeed to come back with these technologies. With that said, I think it’s awesome it’s basically using diesel tech for gasoline. Diesel is still a more dense fuel, and I don’t think I’ll ever let go of my tuned 335d, but I’m glad these things are being done.

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      Superchargers are anything but economical…

      All this complication will, at best, save almost as much fuel as turbocharging which every other make is switching to, at the cost of the shorter lifespan of fuel system components.

  • avatar

    “If true, who needs a hybrid?”

    Well, KERS is still a good idea. Wasting energy through braking is still a serious inefficiency that can be mitigated. How that recovered energy is used (for fuel savings or short term power/torque increase) is a different argument but you can’t have that argument unless you actually have the energy available.

    Didn’t Honda do the “moar powah” method with the Accord V6 Hybrid?

    • 0 avatar

      I think Lexus has used the Hybrid formula for increased performance (as in not necessarily to increase MPG alone, but to boost power).

    • 0 avatar

      Braking seems like an easy way to capture energy. If for nothing else than the immediate acceleration after you take your foot off the brake, say at a stoplight or something. I recall (what I thought) was a rather good idea of capturing heat from ICE’s to create steam power for things like initial acceleration as well. There are a lot of options there to further the ICE. Problem is, they add weight and complexity to an already heavy and complex machine. If all the stops were pulled out, cost not an option, Im sure the ICE has lots of efficiency left in it. But…cost. When gas is cheap, nobody will invest. Not sure if gas will ever be truly expensive again with the USA coming on as major producer undercutting OPEC.

      • 0 avatar

        Agree. The technology used to recapture kinetic energy during slowing is well understood, reliable and cost effective.

        IMHO, it is genuinely stupid to throw away energy (and money) by disposing of this energy as heat.

    • 0 avatar


      After Honda used the Insight to figure out that buyers weren’t interested in trading off the costs of hybrid technology for things like…seats…to maintain a price point, they decided to hide the costs of hybrid tech behind a bangload of other features, and charge accordingly.

      So begat the 2005 Accord Hybrid. In effect, they took a fully loaded Accord V6 EXL sedan, added the IMA equipment, and sold it as the biggest, baddest, fastest, most powerful Accord ever (that also happens to be a hybrid, btw)!

      Not to say that the Accord Hybrid wasn’t a great idea, but Acura levels of pricing and content carrying around the Honda badge just didn’t grab buyers the way Honda hoped.

      I think it /did/ help start the trend of making hybrid cars top o’ the line trim levels, tho.

  • avatar

    It does sound very interesting, I hope it works for them. Perhaps it could be their saving grace, something that truly makes their cars stand out, especially on paper where they would seem to fall flat (since you can’t get an accurate impression of how it drives by reading specs). Diesel MPG and torque with lower emissions (not to mention cheaper) gasoline? Sounds like a winner.

    Maybe they could also license the technology they developed to make this happen to other automakers.

    I wish them the best, always.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised they’re using supercharging instead of turbocharging. Seems to be taking a step back to go forward. And anyone who owned a Millenia S shudders at the sound of Mazda + supercharging. If this is what they say it will be this is great news…. Skyactiv-G engines are weak sauce and sap all the enjoyment out of their mainstreamers.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m going to make a wild guess and say they will be using electric supercharging with a higher voltage engine electrical system. See the new Mercedes inline 6 for an example.

      • 0 avatar

        That would be pretty cool. I’m still bummed that supercharging (of all types- turbo, electric, belt driven) is becoming the standard, but using electrical power to supercharge is great.

        I do hope that performance cars move to KERS/motor type hybrids…. leave the induction path uncorrupted please!

    • 0 avatar

      The skyactive-G engines are not weak sauce. The 2.5 litre in the 6 has virtually identical power and torque to the Accord earthdream engine. Haven’t heard you call that weak sauce. Then the Mazda us paired with a well regarded six speed auto to make for a very competitive powertrain.

      Looks like Mazda R&D has been busy, I recall you complaining they focussed too much on the rotary. Seems like they can do two things at once!

      • 0 avatar

        Mike, you are a real glutton for punishment when it comes to taking any slights or negative facts about Mazda as personal insults. No worries though, I’ll be your huckleberry.

        Riddle me this. If the Mazda 2.5 has “virtually identical power and torque” to the Honda 2.4, why is the HEAVIER Accord Sport 6MT nearly a second faster to 60 and through the quarter than the manual 6?

        If you need consensus and complicity from strangers on the internet to enjoy your cars you have a pretty grueling ownership experience ahead of you.

        • 0 avatar

          Did I ever say Mazda was perfect? No I didn’t and they have had and continue to have some issues. However you come on every Mazda thread (I don’t) and complain even when your complaint is not backed up by facts.
          To answer your riddle – the Accord us understated in power. There are ten other midsize sedans who all have power/acceleration comparable to the 6. So it is factually incorrect to single out the 6 as being “weak sauce”.
          You complained about their R&D efforts yet seem quite on them achieving a solid step forward (I don’t believe this is a breakthrough personally – gasp something negative!!)

          • 0 avatar

            I’m not in “every Mazda thread”, stop it.

            And if the Accord is underrated, 1 that contradicts your claim that they have “virtually identical power” and 2 that’s a ding on Mazda as they get virtually identical gas mileage in the real world.

            I didn’t complain about their R&D effort- this is cool stuff- just need to see if it bears fruit. I don’t think Mazda would make these claims if they didn’t think they could actually deliver; that would be a huge blow to their credibility. So it does seem they have cracked the code. Which, again, IMO they need to do as the current crop of Skyactiv-G engines are nothing special.

            FWIW I had a Civic 2.0 rental as well and that was no better than the 3 2.0 rental I had engine wise. So I don’t have a hard on for Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Supercharging will boost the compression ratio, also the supercharger will always have compressed air on tap whenever required. When not required the compressed air can be bleed off using less power to drive the supercharger.

      I would think the supercharger will be driven by the engine and not an electric motor.

      The electric motor driven supercharger I thought was being used to provide boost when a turbo is off boost.

  • avatar

    So basically used Mazda’s ten years from now will be mechanical and electrical nightmares.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re right, 2007 model vehicles with compression-ignition boosted engines are nearly worthless today due to their widely known lack of robustness.

  • avatar

    What about NOx emissions? It’s been a concern with high compression gas engines and diesels.

  • avatar

    Ok…I’ll say it.


  • avatar

    I hope it works, but I’m really skeptical of claims like a 45% increase in fuel economy.

  • avatar

    Fascinating new development and good to see further IC engine refinements. But point of Hybrids is they capture and reuse energy that is presently lost during slowdown/braking (especially when descending hills). Look at MPG for non-hybrid .vs. hybrid and you’ll see non-hybrids take a huge hit on hilly roads or in stop-go traffic.

    • 0 avatar

      True – when carmakers tout ICE “MPG”, they’re talking “Highway” MPG. The vase majority of gasoline used and pollution produced is in the “City” mode of driving. Misleading, for sure.

      I also worry about particulate pollution – will gasoline compression-ignition engines produce even more than direct-injection systems?

    • 0 avatar

      Mazda already has i-eLoop which converts energy. So that will just be rolled out to more models – your concern resolved.

  • avatar

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

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    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.

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