Mazda confirms spark plug-free petrol engine

9 August 2017
, GoAutoMedia

Mazda has announced the world’s first mass-produced spark plug-free petrol engine due in 2019, which it says offers the fuel efficiency of a diesel powerplant alongside improved power and driveability.

The 'Spark Controlled Compression Ignition' unit is dubbed SkyActiv-X and forms part of the Japanese company’s ‘Sustainable Zoom Zoom 2030’ long-term strategy revealed this week.

Expected to make its debut in the forthcoming fourth-generation Mazda3, the SkyActiv-X engine should arrive in Australia during 2019 under the bonnet of Mazda’s next small car.

Following its initial roll-out, SkyActiv-X is likely to proliferate across most of carmaker’s model lines – including the next-gen CX-3 compact SUV and Mazda2 light car.

Mazda claims this will be the first commercial use of the powerplant technology, given other manufacturers have trialled it in several applications that are yet to enter mass production.

Similar to a diesel engine, the SkyActiv-X unit ignites the petrol fuel-mixture when compressed by its pistons.

According to the company, its version of the technology solves two of the problems that prevented wider use – "maximising the zone in which compression ignition is possible, and achieving a seamless transition between compression ignition and spark ignition".

SkyActiv-X improves torque output by 10 to 30 per cent while increasing fuel economy by 20 to 30 per cent, thanks to the inclusion of the compression ignition and a supercharger.

Compared to the existing SkyActiv-G petrol powerplants, SkyActiv-X improves torque output by 10 to 30 per cent while increasing fuel economy by 20 to 30 per cent, thanks to the inclusion of the compression ignition and a supercharger.

Furthermore, Mazda says the technology can equal or exceed the fuel efficiency of a current SkyActiv-D diesel engine.

Aside from the inherit benefits to the environment that SkyActiv-X brings, the carmaker says driving performance and acceleration are also key areas of improvement.

Following on from Mazda's initial 'Sustainable Zoom Zoom' plan in 2007, the new environmental strategy aims to reduce corporate average "well-to-wheel" carbon dioxide emissions by up to 50 per cent over 2010 levels by 2030, ahead of a 90 per cent reduction by 2050.

Nevertheless, the brand reaffirmed the role that internal combustion engines (ICE) will continue to play, as it believes such units will power "the majority of cars worldwide for many years to come, and can therefore make the greatest contribution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and combine the results with effective electrification technologies".

As previously reported, Mazda intends to introduce electric vehicles (EVs) into markets that have sufficient green energy availability, as well as those, like France and the United Kingdom, that are making commitments towards phasing out ICE units.

The manufacturer also announced it will develop and roll-out additional active safety technologies under the i-ActivSense nomenclature, with an aim to eliminate traffic accidents. 

Additionally, autonomous driving technologies will be tested as part of Mazda’s Co-Pilot Concept, with all self-driving systems intended to be standard across its model line-up by 2025.

Further details on the SkyActiv-X engine are expected to be revealed later this month at a Mazda technology forum, which is set ahead of the Frankfurt motor show in September.

Will spark plug-free petrol engines become the norm next decade? Tell us what you think in the comments below.