How Mazda wants to save the world – and cars as we know them
While European countries are increasingly backing the notion of banning internal combustion engines outright, and opting for all-electric powered cars instead, Japanese auto maker Mazda has other ideas – and indeed, they may be more feasible.
The company has unveiled a long-term sustainability strategy dubbed ‘Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2013’ that focuses on reducing well-to-wheel emissions, and introducing an innovative new engine technology, while also acknowledging the increasing role of electric cars in overall mobility.
Environmentally, Mazda is advocating emissions reductions based on a well-to-wheel perspective, which takes a more holistic view of how emissions are produced and measured, rather than focusing purely on emissions produced by vehicles while being operated.
Its target is to reduce Mazda’s overall wheel-to-well carbon emissions to 50 percent of the levels the company achieved in 2010 by 2030, and by 90 percent by 2050. It will do this by prioritising meaningful, real-world improvements in efficiency across the entire production and operating cycle.
A key element will be the further refinement of the internal combustion engine – a technology which it believes will remain relevant in the majority of cars worldwide for the foreseeable future. Dramatically reducing the emissions of these engines will therefore have the greatest impact on CO2 emissions reduction, Mazda believes.
Pivotal to this strategy is what Mazda claims is the world’s first production-viable compression ignition engine. Dubbed the SkyActiv-X, the supercharged petrol engine uses a proprietary technology called spark-controlled compression ignition.
In a compression ignition engine, the fuel/air mixture is spontaneously ignited using piston compression alone. Mazda’s technology maximises the zone in which compression ignition is possible, and allows a seamless transition between conventional spark ignition and compression ignition.
Mazda claims efficiency gains of between 20 and 30 percent compared to its current, direct-injection SkyActiv-G engines, while increasing torque and engine response by between 10 and 30 percent. A broader torque band also allows taller gearing for further enhanced efficiency. The new engine technology will be introduced in 2019.
In addition to its new SkyActiv-X engines, Mazda will develop a range of electric cars for use in regions where power is generated using a high ratio of clean energy. The first of these are expected to emerge in 2019.
The company has also pledged to introduce autonomous driving technologies by 2020, and to standardise these on all models by 2025, while its i-ActiveSense safety systems, already offered on selected models in Japan, will be rolled out to other markets starting next year.