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Diesel-hybrid a non-starter for Mazda

Sky is the limit: Mazda is focusing its engine development on the SkyActiv suite of powertrains, which includes the SkyActiv-D diesel engine.

SkyActiv the key for Mazda as it rules out diesel-electric hybrid powertrain

Mazda logo25 Aug 2014

By TIM NICHOLSON

MAZDA has ruled out a rumoured diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain and will instead focus its resources on further developing its fuel-saving SkyActiv engine technologies.

Reports surfaced earlier this month that the Japanese car-maker was developing a diesel hybrid powertrain that would end up powering some Mazda models from April 2016 on, and target fuel use figures as low as 2.5 litres per 100 kilometres.

Speaking with GoAuto at the Mazda2 launch in Japan last week, Koichi Shinbata from Mazda’s powertrain development division appeared genuinely surprised when questioned about the existence of an oil-burning hybrid engine.

“No, currently we don’t have any plan,” he said.

Shinbata-San would not be drawn on whether Mazda was planning to add more hybrid variants to its range beyond the ones offered in the Mazda3 line-up in Japan, and added that the company would focus on developing its SkyActiv range of lightweight, fuel-efficient petrol and diesel engines.

“The Mazda3 already has two powertrains, including hybrid system. So I cannot say, I don't know about the future, however currently we don't have any plan to use hybrid.

“However before using hybrid, we want to improve the base engine so it has more opportunity to make improvement so that is more likely.”

A presentation slide showing a graph that details Mazda’s SkyActiv engine development strategy highlights three steps to a final goal that simply states: “Petrol engine and diesel engine [sic] will look similar in the future.”

While Shinbata-San did not offer any further detail about this, it could mean that Mazda is targeting fuel consumption figures for its SkyActiv-G petrol engines that equal that of the diesel-powered units.

Under the bonnet of the Mazda6, the 2.5-litre SkyActiv petrol unit currently records fuel use of 6.6L/100km when matched with an automatic transmission, while the 2.2-litre SkyActiv-D sips 5.4L/100km.

Mazda has also ruled introducing a three-cylinder engine to compete with American rivals General Motors and Ford, who both offer a frugal 1.0-litre three-pot in smaller models sold in some markets.

Shinbata-San said the company had attempted this in the past, but development was halted due to concerns about noise and vibration.

“As for the three-cylinder, currently we don't have any plan to use that. We have studied that opportunity, however we dropped it because the noise and vibration problem. It was a significant challenge so we dropped it.”

The smallest Mazda-produced engine is the 1.3-litre petrol unit that will be offered in some markets under the bonnet of the new Mazda2. However, Australian-delivery models will be matched with a pair of 1.5-litre petrol engines in different states of tune.

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