Mazda announces “Spark-less” Petrol Engine Breakthrough

Amongst all of the background noise over the eventual death of the internal combustion engine, there is a small, almost timorous voice in the background, announcing a breakthrough in petrol engine technology that could give the average combustion engine as much as a 30% improvement in fuel efficiency.

Seeing as the world has declared the end of combustion engines, then this headline may seem like someone is heading in the wrong direction. But according to Mazda’s Head of R&D, Kiyoshi Fujiwara, Mazda thinks that it will be a very long time before we fully dispense with the petrol as a fuel, and therefore we had better be using much more efficient engines in the future.

Basically, Mazda has figured out how to make petrol perform in a similar way that diesel does, and mostly remove the spark plugs from the combustion process, allowing for the heat developed when you compress the fuel/air mix to spontaneously combust. This allows for compression ratios of over 16:1 compared to 10:1 in an average petrol car, and for much more energy to be squeezed out of your fuel; thus, you use less fuel – a claimed 30% less, in fact.

The announcement is a bit of a feather in the cap for Mazda, who has beaten industry heavyweights such as Daimler and Audi to the punch with this engine; they have been trying to develop a spark-less petrol engine for decades. The announcement obviously leaves the humble old petrol engine at the centre of Mazda’s planning, although they are developing electric engines with their larger rival, Toyota, the very same company that it is joining to create a USD1.5 billion manufacturing plant in the US of A.

The first the public will see of this engine will be very soon, as Mazda plans to make this a part of their “Zoom-Zoom 2030” strategy, and put it in cars as their Skyactiv-X engine beginning in 2019. But it has no plans to share the technology with other carmakers, and by this we assume also means Toyota. The engine—which is technically a homogeneous charge compression ignition—will be known as the Spark Controlled Compression Ignition by Mazda, as the engine will still utilise spark technology at low temperatures and low rpm.

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