There's still life in the good ol' petrol engine

Mazda hasn't even released its SkyActiv-X range of compression-ignition engines yet, but it's touting how clean its next generation of petrol engines will be.

In a new report by industry journal Automotive News, Mazda head of powertrains, Mitsuo Hitomi, says the SkyActiv-3 range of petrol engines will be as clean as an electric vehicle (EV) - at least, once you factor in the supply chain of energy creation.

Speaking at a technical conference in Tokyo, Hitomi said the company will prioritise boosting thermal efficiency of its engines, and reducing the combustion energy lost to heat while increasing the amount used to power the wheels.

If Mazda can increase thermal efficiency by around 27 per cent, Hitomi says the engines can achieve emissions on par with an EV.

But EVs are emissionless, right? Well, Hitomi argues the well-to-wheel emissions of an EV includes the carbon dioxide produced from creating the electricity that powers it.

Meanwhile, for combustion-engined vehicles, total emissions are calculated from the extraction of oil and refining gasoline.

The company's calculations claim some EVs are actually more polluting than combustion vehicles once the entire fuelling/charging process is accounted for.

According to Mazda's powertrain chief, the brand believes it can cut carbon-dioxide emissions by around 25 per cent, giving combustion-powered vehicles comparable well-to-wheel economy to EVs that get their electricity from burning liquefied natural gas.

Timing for SkyActiv-3 is yet to be confirmed, though Hitmi says - and rightly so - the technology will give the combustion engine a much longer life.