Can a gas-powered car be cleaner than an electric vehicle? Mazda thinks so, claiming the next-gen of SkyActiv engines will emit fewer emissions than EVs. And they could do it, if you look at the entire well-to-wheel emissions picture, through the use of super-efficient engines and mild hybrid systems that do away with heavy battery packs.
Not to take anything away from Mazda’s excellent line of SkyActiv gasoline engines. These super-efficient motors use high-compression, direct injection, and other fuel-saving technologies to improve MPGs, with the added benefit of extra Zoom-zoom as well. These high-tech engines has given Mazda the most fuel-efficient line of cars in America. Engineers are aiming for diesel-like fuel economy from its gasoline engines, and Gen 2 SkyActiv will up the ante further.
Where the current SkyActiv engines have a compression of 14:1, the next generation will approach 18:1 compression (until recently, most gasoline cars had single-digit compression ratios). Combined with friction-reduction technology and further improvements in fuel deliverly, these improvements will lead to a 30% boost in thermal efficiency and fuel economy. Mazda claims it can bring well-to-wheel vehicle CO2 emissions, of an unspecified “average” Mazda, down to just 80g/km.
Beyond that, the Gen 3 SkyActiv engines will utilize further-improved mild hybrid and supercapacitor systems that draw almost no energy from the engines, while dropping emissions down to just 60g/km. By taking batteries out of the equation, these vehicles will be lighter and thus more efficient. With the hybrid system active, well-to-wheel emissions could be just 50g/kkm, equivalent to the Mazda2 EV. That’s making assumptions about the EV’s power source, however, and with the increasing popularity and efficiency of solar panels, a truly zero-emissions electric vehicle is no longer a fantasy.
Still, you’ve got to applaud Mazda for aiming high, and it isn’t like gasoline engines are going to disappear anytime soon. We might as well make them as efficient as possible as long as we’re stuck with them, right?