It seems Mazda is on the PR offensive with its new and enormously clever SkyActiv-X engine. You can hardly blame them - when almost every other major car company out there is shoving electrification down consumers’ throats, Mazda needs to explain why developing internal combustion any further is a good thing.
Today, it’s doing so with numbers. To demonstrate what it means about the new engine being the “right solution at the right time,” Mazda wants a greater focus on “well-to-wheel” emissions. In other words, it’s all well and good calling something electrically driven a ‘zero emission vehicle’, but that doesn’t take into account where that electricity came from, while also factoring in manufacture, shipping and fuel extraction.
Mazda has given a figure of a mid-size EV consuming roughly 20kWh of electricity every 62 miles. If that power was from a coal-fired powerplant, Mazda says that’d equate to CO2 emissions of 200g/km, while from a petrol-based source, it’d be 156g/km. Finally, if it’s LNG-generated (liquefied petroleum gas) juice, you’re looking at 100g/km.
This gives an average of 128g/km, which Mazda’s current SkyActiv-G with its 142g/km figure is only 10 per cent off. SkyActiv-X on the other hand - which uses high compression levels for a super-lean burn - should be 20 - 30 per cent more efficient than -G. You can see where they’re going with this.
The only trouble is, government regulations in countries across the world don’t reflect this - EVs are treated as zero-emission vehicles, making generous tax breaks, grants and other incentives common. It’s also generally much cheaper to charge up an EV than it is to fill up a car with a tank of petrol. Mazda may well have a battle on its hands convincing new car buyers to shirk the current cost savings of going electric or plug-in hybrid to the potential benefit of Mother Nature.
Mazda is keen to point out that it is still developing electric powertrains, for use in countries where the electricity grids are a little less dirty (think Norway), and in preparation for power generation becoming cleaner in other markets. SkyActiv-X will feature a mild hybrid element (although Mazda has said precious little about it thus far), and there’ll be a plug-in hybrid coming by 2025.