Hosting the Mazda technology forum in Frankfurt last week, the Japanese company reinforced its belief that the internal combustion engine will be around for decades to come, rationalising its position against fuel-efficient electrification of the automobile by showcasing what it dubs real world ‘well to wheel’ emissions.
Speaking to the media, the company’s managing executive and senior technical fellow in charge of technical research centre and integrated control system developments, Mitsuo Hitomi, said that amidst scandals like dieselgate, trust in the automotive industry was at an all time low and that a focus shift to real world emissions should now take place.
“CO2 emissions must be evaluated from the energy-generation stage, not only while driving.” Hitomi said.
As part of that process, Mazda is heavily reinvesting in the internal combustion engine with its new generation of SkyActiv-X technologies, which come into effect from 2019.
Currently, the SkyActiv-G and D engines, as well as i-Stop and i-Eloop technologies, are available across the Mazda range of cars. From a technology perspective, i-ActivSense active safety features and Mazda connect infotainment remain the core technologies for the time being.
Coming from 2019 are a set of new powertrain, platform, design and infotainment systems that will usher in a new era for Mazda, carrying the brand into 2021 and beyond.
The SkyActiv-X technologies will see the introduction of very high-compression petrol engines that bring all the benefits of diesel powertrain fuel efficiencies and torque without the associated emission disadvantages. Read our initial impressions of Mazda's SkyActiv-X.
In conjunction with SkyActiv-X powertrains, Mazda will also introduce new-generation platforms with its second-generation SkyActiv-Body and chassis systems that will see the brand through and beyond 2021.
2019 will also see the brand launch its first hybrid and electric vehicles with Mild HEVs and battery-powered EVs, both with and without range extender functionalities. It’s unclear for now whether Mazda Australia would take any of the pure EV vehicles, but is likely to consider the hybrid models as they become available.
From 2020, Mazda will introduce its next-generation SkyActiv-D engine. The second-generation diesel engine will further improve on the current generation, with better fuel economy, lower emissions, and more torque. A year later, the Japanese brand plans to introduce its first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.
From a technology and safety perspective, the next-generation of Mazda connect which will support Apple CarPlay (likely via wireless link) will come into effect from 2019 and will team up with the Mazda Co-Pilot autonomous driving technologies from 2020.
The company insists that even with its co-pilot autonomous systems, it will remain at a level two or level three for autonomous driving. That means the systems will be there to provide assistance in case the driver is incapacitated or distracted, but will never take over the full driving function away from the driver.
The current Kodo design language will also mature to Kodo Design 2 alongside the launch of SkyActiv-X in 2019.
The Japanese brand believes its focus on the internal combustion engine will be validated as the electrification hype that surrounds companies such as Tesla, will be met by the harsh reality of 'well-to-wheel' emissions, that will see electric cars powered by dirty fuel from the source be rated on a par with internal combustion engines.
According to Mazda, a 10 per cent improvement in real world fuel economy for the internal combustion engine, will see it emit the same amount of CO2 as an electric vehicle charged with electricity generated by standard means.
The company further claims that with a 30 per cent improvement, the SkyActiv engines will return the same emissions reading as an electric vehicle charged using liquefied natural gas (LNG). The company doesn’t provide comparisons to electric vehicles charged using solar energy.
Looking further ahead, Mazda says that liquid fuels will remain the dominant source of power for the automotive industry until at least 2040, so focus on renewable liquid fuels is a must. According to Mazda, electric vehicles are not necessary before the elimination of all fossil-fuel or non-renewable electric power plants.
Hitomi points out the possibility of using Microalgae liquid fuel as a source and the research that is currently going on around genome editing at Hiroshima University amongst other places.
The company’s plans for the next five years and beyond, will see Mazda take a different approach – at least publicly – to the majority of other manufacturers that are spruiking the future of full electric mobility with many of the company’s contemporary rivals both from Japan and beyond, heavily focused on electric vehicle and autonomous driving development.