Hiroshima - It’s been rumoured for quite some time, but Mazda has finally spilled the beans on its innovative new compression-ignition petrol engine, which will go on sale in 2019. Dubbed Skyactiv-X, it will be the world’s first series-produced petrol engine to use diesel-like compression ignition, although strictly speaking it won't use that combustion method alone.

So what’s the big deal?

Ultimately the new motor aims to provide a “best of both worlds” solution: the efficiency of a diesel engine without the dirty exhaust emissions that have caused so much controversy lately.

“This new proprietary combustion engine combines the advantages of petrol and diesel engines to achieve outstanding environmental performance, power and acceleration performance,” Mazda says.

Until now only diesel engines have used the compression ignition combustion technique, however because petrol combusts differently to diesel, Mazda has had to make some adaptations. 

In compression ignition diesel engines it’s the piston compression that ignites the air-fuel mixture, while petrol engines rely on a spark plug. 

Mazda’s method for making this combustion process work for a petrol engine is to maximise the zone in which compression ignition is possible and to retain the spark plugs for conditions under which they're required, , thereby enabling “a seamless transition between compression ignition and spark ignition,” as Mazda puts it.

Although the Japanese carmaker has yet to go into any exact detail about the engines, the company does claim that the super lean burn resulting from compression ignition leads to efficiency gains of between 20 and 30 percent, compared to Mazda’s current Skyactiv-G petrol engines. 

Fuel economy, Mazda reckons, will be similar to or better than what today’s Mazda diesel engines achieve.

Torque outputs are set to increase by between 10 and 30 percent, although that’s also partly because Mazda will fit superchargers to the new engines.

Unlike other companies (and governments for that matter) which seem hell-bent on sending internal combustion engines to the automotive scrap heap, Mazda clearly sees a future for the engine as we know it, but that doesn’t mean that it is ignoring the electric revolution. 

It is simply taking a sensible approach by using its recent tie-up with Toyota to introduce battery cars to markets that demand or legislate their use and/or those that use a high ratio of clean energy to generate power (rather than creating a situation where electric cars are indirectly powered by coal, as would be the case in countries like SA).

To that end, Mazda says it is taking a “wheel-to-wheel” approach in its mission to reduce emissions over the vehicle’s entire lifecycle, with the aim of achieving a 90 percent reduction by 2050.

Safety technology, along with its role in minimising road accidents, is also on the agenda, as is a move towards an autonomous ‘Co-Pilot’ feature that Mazda aims to make standard on all its cars from 2025.

Yet somewhere among all this future-proof jargon, Mazda still found time to mention the phrase “true driving pleasure”. It might just be marketing fluff, but knowing what we know about Mazda, it gives us some hope.

IOL Motoring