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Mazda keeps faith in internal-combustion engines

Shut it down: The updated CX-5 range launched this week, introducing cylinder deactivation technology for variants fitted with the 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine.

Increased efficiencies to keep low-cost internal-combustion engines going: Mazda

Mazda logo3 May 2018

MAZDA Motor Corporation (MMC) has insisted it will continue to keep the faith in internal-combustion engines (ICEs), despite recently revising its Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030 electrification roadmap that will see new hybrid and EV models introduced from next year.

Speaking to GoAuto at the CX-5 national media launch in Springrange, New South Wales this week, MMC product division program manager Hideki Matsuoka stressed that while MMC is progressing with its electrification roadmap, other options are more cost-efficient.

“I think what we are going to do is start introducing models with electrification,” he said. “But if you look at the impact on the pricing of those electrified vehicles, maybe we also need to think about more efficient ways to be friendly to the environment.

“At Mazda, we believe the internal-combustion engines, including hybrid vehicles, will still take up a substantial chunk of the market in the future.

“We think it is necessary to utilise the current technologies at the highest efficiencies for both gasoline and diesel engines, even going forward.”

When questioned how long internal-combustion engines will continue to be part of Mazda’s model line-up, Mr Matsuoka said: “Internal-combustion (engines) will not disappear until the time I pass away.”

Despite France and the United Kingdom announcing plans last year to ban the sale of fossil-fuelled vehicles by 2040, he remained confident in their long-term prospects thanks to emerging technologies.

“Of course, we need to follow the policies of those governments in terms of power source selection,” he said.

“However, if you look at Germany, they said they’re going to ban ICEs and focus on EVs, but now Bosch has this new diesel technology announced.

“So, the reality is that all of those countries are still struggling to figure out what is the best way to save the environment.”

German engineering company Bosch revealed last week that it has developed a new technology for diesel powertrains that can reduce the level of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in exhaust emissions to one-tenth of the limit required by European regulations coming into effect in 2020.

Specifically, this reduction has been achieved by tweaking existing technologies, such as air-flow and exhaust-gas management systems, turbochargers and fuel injectors.

Nevertheless, Mr Matsuoka added that “electrification is definitely something that is coming, (but) I think it all depends on whether the customers see the value in electrified vehicles”.

“Mazda a few years back introduced the Mazda3 with a clean diesel and also a hybrid (in Japan). And the sales of those models, if you look at that, the clean diesel sold more volume than the hybrid one.”

When questioned why the Japanese car-maker persists with natural aspiration over turbocharging – a technology that typically increases efficiency and performance – for the vast majority of its petrol powertrains, Mr Matsuoka explained that cost is a major factor.

“Mazda’s basic stance is that we want to reduce the number of parts we use, as minimum as possible, and at the same time we want to maximise the efficiency.

“Because that will help us to provide our vehicles at an affordable price for customers, and at the same time be friendly to the environment as well.”

While SkyActiv-X – the world’s first mass-production compression-ignition petrol engine – will be MMC’s next non-turbocharged internal-combustion unit when it debuts in the fourth-generation Mazda3 small car next year, Mr Matsuoka cautioned that it will not supplant the marque’s other petrol powertrains.

“I don’t think that’s going to be case,” he said. “We are not going to just focus on SkyActiv-X and stop selling our (other petrol) engine.

“Right now we have a whole variety of engines, from a 1.3-litre to a 2.5-litre with turbocharger for CX-9.

“So, with that engine line-up, SkyActiv-X will be one of options in that whole engine line-up, and we are also raising the efficiencies of all the other engines as well. So, the whole Mazda engine line-up will have great efficiency.

“I personally believe that (SkyActiv-X) will be most suitable to be sold in the highest grade in a limited number of models as the engine which has the highest technologies and highest efficiencies.”

Mr Matsuoka would not be drawn to what other models will be powered by the new engine, saying: “Eventually (SkyActiv-X) will be mounted on other models, but I’m not in a position to talk about it.”

However, he did suggest that MMC needs to look into a turbo-petrol version of the CX-5 mid-size SUV, which received a powertrain-focused update this week, including the introduction of cylinder deactivation for its 2.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol powerplant.

“This time there’s no (turbo-petrol). Next time, however … I believe that we have to look into the addition of a (turbo-petrol). There are customer needs in Australia, of course,” he said.

When questioned if the 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine used by the CX-9 large SUV – and soon the Mazda6 mid-sizer – would fit in the CX-5’s engine bay, Mr Matsuoka said: “Actually, it is possible, because engine room is not different between the CX-5 and CX-9.”

He clarified that the 170kW/420Nm CX-9 is currently only sold in the North American and Australian markets, “so maybe those two markets are going to the main ones if we are to introduce (a turbo-petrol CX-5)”.

As previously reported, Mazda Australia first expressed its interest in a turbo-petrol CX-5 when the second-generation model was launched in March last year, citing strong Australia customer interest.

However, Mazda North American Operations president and CEO Masahiro Moro told journalists at the Los Angeles motor show in November last year that CX-5 supply issues would need to be addressed before a turbo-petrol option is introduced.

If a turbo-petrol CX-5 were to eventuate, it would likely to be introduced alongside the mid-size SUV’s mid-life facelift, which should lob around 2020.

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