Mazda Engineers Under Pressure to Make Good on Spark-Less Gas Engine

2017 Mazda3 Sport

Mazda is on track to introduce the first mass-produced homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI) gasoline engine at the end of 2018, which the Japanese company estimates will boost fuel economy by as much as 30 percent compared to its current SkyActiv engines.

According to a report from Nikkei Asian Review, the new engine technology will be a key component in the Japanese automaker’s second-generation SkyActiv 2 powertrains. Mazda says the HCCI engine that will debut in the redesigned Mazda3 will boost fuel economy by 30 percent, though it’s not clear if that improvement is relative to the current range of SkyActiv engines, or gasoline engines in general. A Hinet News report (translated from Japanese) says the engine’s economy could be as good as 30 km/L — equivalent to an almost unbelievable 3.3 L/100 km.

An HCCI engine differs from tradition gas engines by eliminating spark plugs: they ignite the fuel/air mixture through compression alone, like diesels do. Another positive side effect is a reduction in exhaust emissions. Speaking of diesel, Mazda announced in November its SkyActiv-D engine will soon be available in the CX-5 compact crossover.

The last time we heard talk of such an engine in a Mazda was around mid-2016, when rumours started flying (and have since crashed) that the company would produce a rotary-powered sports car with compression ignition. But HCCI has been on the minds of Mazda engineers since 2014, when it first promised to add such an engine to its lineup around 2020, a pledge that the company seems set to meet.

Mazda has said HCCI will be part of its plan to meet more stringent American fuel economy standards scheduled to come into effect in 2025. The manufacturer says it will start building electric vehicles by 2019, and wants to have a plug-in hybrid in its lineup two years after that.

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Chris Chase

Chris Chase

As a child, Chris spent much of his time playing with toy cars in his parents’ basement; when his mother would tell him to go play outside, he made car sounds while riding his bicycle or dug roads for his toys in the flower garden. Now he gets to indulge his obsession playing with real cars that make their own cool noises, and gets paid for it.