Mazda is bringing its new Skyactiv-X engine, hyped as a major leap forward in internal combustion engine technology, to the Los Angeles Auto Show and the end of the month. Wedged inside the new Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback, the powerplant uses “Spark Controlled Compression Ignition,” which is said to combine the efficiency of a diesel unit with the performance of a gasoline mill. The manufacturer claims fuel economy improvements of more than 30 percent over a standard gasoline engine of the same displacement.
Assuming Mazda meets that mark, it’s a petty impressive feat. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder will debut along with the 3’s new platform in L.A. at the end of the month.
If you were among America’s 1.4 million new vehicle buyers in July 2017, there’s a 99-percent chance your new vehicle requires fuel. Although the vehicles that run off the electric grid are linked to $7,500 government tax credits, they form barely more than half of one percent of the U.S. new vehicle market.
Mazda, you’ll recall, doesn’t sell any electric vehicles in the United States. Mazda doesn’t sell any vehicles with a plug. Mazda doesn’t even sell any hybrids.
So it’s not surprising that Robert Davis, former Mazda USA senior vice president of operations who’s now in charge of special assignments, candidly laid out the case for the internal combustion engine yesterday at the CAR Management Briefing seminars in Traverse City, Michigan.
“The internal combustion engine has a strong future role in transportation,” Robert Davis says.
Forget hybrids. Set aside, for this moment, plug-in hybrids as well. Ignore the EV hubbub and the pie-in-the-sky hydrogen fuel cells. While you’re at it, remove turbochargers and their accompanying displacement reductions from your memory, too.
The naturally aspirated internal combustion engine has legs. The proof is in the 2018 Toyota Camry’s 2.5-liter Dynamic Force four-cylinder. With no hybrid assist, no turbos, no cord that plugs into your garage wall, and no futuristic fuel source, the new Camry 2.5-liter produces 206 horsepower and hits 41 miles per gallon on the highway on regular 87 octane.
That’s 16-percent more power 24-percent more highway mpg than the 2017 Camry’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder. With improvements in conventional, naturally aspirated, gas-fired engines occurring in such leaps and bounds, it’s no wonder Toyota has bigger plans for the Dynamic Force blueprint.
A recent study from Consumers Union — the public policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports — shows continued interest among U.S. residents in seeing automakers improve fuel economy figures, even as gas prices remain fairly low.
While this should come as a shock to no one, nearly nine in 10 surveyed consumers agreed automakers should continue improving fuel efficiency standards on all vehicles. As well, only 30 percent believed manufacturers actually cared about lowering fuel costs for their customers.
This might be true but, then again, why would automakers do such a thing when the general populace has essentially turned its back on economical passenger cars? With little incentive to sell them, especially if the Trump administration alters 2025 emission targets, any top-tier automaker focusing exclusively on building MPG-focused automobiles would be placing itself at major financial risk.
The survey indicated fuel economy as the area perceived to possess the most room for improvement in modern vehicles. However, consumers have not used their wallets to bolster economy car sales. There appears to be a disparity between what the public claims to value and how it actually behaves. At a minimum, consumers may have misunderstood everything it would take to see fleet-wide fuel consumption decline. If they want to see higher MPGs, they’re going to have to make some sacrifices and the survey doesn’t allude to that fact.
A Swedish company with close ties to a hard-to-spell supercar maker has thrown a wrench into the automotive world, unveiling a production-ready piston engine that doesn’t use a camshaft.
Developed by FreeValve AB, which isn’t a Nordic Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band, the new engine technology ditches a camshaft for other modes of valve actuation, gaining power and efficiency in the process. Unlike some other touted internal combustion engine advancements, this technology already has a customer.
Diesel? What’s that?
Volkswagen is embracing a far less controversial type of fuel with its new 1.5-liter TSI engine, unveiled yesterday at the Vienna Motor Symposium.
The ultra-efficient four-cylinder uses variable turbine geometry (VTG) in its turbocharger to generate peak torque at a low 1,300 rpm, then maintain a flat torque curve until about 4,500 rpm. This leads to fuel economy gains and a better driving experience.
General Motors head of global powertrain and former Delphi senior vice president of powertrain systems Steve Kiefer aims to steer engine development toward a brighter future, one influenced by his love for diesels, quietness and refinement.
Bourke Engine (click for animation)
In a comment to my post last month about Professor Gary Waissi’s new piston engine that has no connecting rods between the pistons and the crankshaft, one of our readers asked about similarities to the Bourke Engine, invented by Russell Bourke. Based on the diagrams of the Bourke motor, that seemed like a good question, so I asked Prof. Waissi about it. I received his reply today. Waissi said that while there were similarities between his engine and Bourke’s, there were also substantial differences, resulting in the Bourke engine having more operating friction. Dr. Waissi also said that he hoped to have a two-cylinder prototype of his own design assembled and running by the end of this year. Waissi’s response after the jump.