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Mazda Targets 56 Percent Thermal Efficiency With Skyactiv-3

Skyactiv-X's compression ignition is already the talk of the town, but Mazda thinks more can be achieved from internal combustion.

Mazda’s Skyactiv-X compression ignition engine is pushing the limits of what is possible with a mass-market automobile engine, but the Japanese automaker evidently believes HCCI is but the beginning. Automotive News reports that the company has already announced Skyactiv-X’s successor, christened Skyactiv-3, with the intent of achieving a staggering 56 percent thermal efficiency.

The project was announced by Mazda’s Managing Executive Officer, Mitsuo Hitomi, and billed as a competitor to the burgeoning electric vehicle market. He claims it will keep an internal combustion vehicle’s emissions on par with that of a car fueled via plug rather than pump.

This is not to say that Mazda is disinterested in the development of EVs. A partnership with China’s Changan Auto was formed to co-develop an electric SUV, likely for the Chinese market. As reported last year, Mazda’s philosophy is one of faith in internal combustion, and investment into the technologies that will enable Skyactiv-3 to reach the company’s efficiency targets will be evidence enough of its piety to petroleum.

Mazda has apparently set its efficiency bar higher than any competing manufacturer. Hyundai pledged 50 percent thermal efficiency in October, raising many eyebrows, as reports from September put Mercedes’ Formula 1 engine at that level. Mercedes achieved that efficiency with a half billion dollars and a decade of development invested, in a diva of an engine that was (almost) never meant to see road use.

Skyactiv-X is not due to arrive on the market until the 2020 Mazda 3 is with us, and Skyactiv-3 will be years beyond. It nevertheless leaves us with the same hope granted to us twofold by Mazda last year: Internal combustion will endure.