In the high-stakes, high-cost battle among global automakers to develop ever more efficient vehicles, one of the biggest breakthroughs in internal combustion engine technology in years looks to be coming from one of the industry's smaller players.
Japan's Mazda Motor Corp has zoomed past its larger global rivals to develop an engine which ignites gasoline using combustion ignition technology, a fuel-saving process considered something of a holy grail of efficient gasoline engines.
As global emissions regulations get tougher, not only could Mazda's technology prolong the life of internal combustion engines, it could also improve "greener" engines as they can be used to produce more efficient gasoline hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
Mazda will showcase the Skyactiv-X technology at the Tokyo Motor Show this week. When it launches the engine in 2019, the automaker says it will deliver as much as 30 percent fuel efficiency over its Skyactiv-G engine, already one of the most fuel efficient gasoline engines on the market.
"Our resources are limited, so unlike bigger automakers, we don't have the array of options in which to invest our R&D funds," said Mitsuo Hitomi, managing executive officer at Mazda who oversees engine development. "That's why we're betting on this technology ... We were determined that no matter what, we would develop this engine," Hitomi told Reuters in an interview at the company's headquarters in Hiroshima.