Last September, EngineLabs theorized about the potential of Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition-equipped engines becoming the future of the automotive industry, as several manufacturers have been working on the technology in some form. Yesterday’s announcement by Mazda that it plans to deploy its new SkyActiv-X technology–which includes an engine featuring HCCI–in a production vehicle for the 2019 model year means that the future is now. Well, almost now, as the 2019 model year is just about one calendar year away. The SkyActiv-X engine will be the world’s first commercial gasoline engine to use Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition, which has been hailed by some as the next great development and efficiency improvement for the internal combustion platform.
One of the main stumbling blocks to developing the Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition technology has been the lack of control over the combustion window. Without the use of a fuel injector or spark plug to light off the mixture, maintaining cylinder temperatures within the small range required to drive the combustion process has been a challenge.
Mazda says they have solved this issue using what they call Spark Controlled Compression Ignition, which is a fancy way of saying their new technology is a hybrid, which incorporates HCCI with traditional spark-ignited combustion. It will be done with a seamless transition, while offering up to 30-percent fuel economy savings over the current SkyActiv-G engine.
According to the press release, SkyActiv-X technology will include the use of a supercharger, which, when combined with the compression ignition technology, will improve throttle response and increase torque from 10 to 30-percent over today’s engine.
It is interesting to see Mazda go in this direction and not focus on electric and hybrid technology, but then the Japanese manufacturer has never been afraid to buck the trend when it comes to manufacturing engines. From the Miller-cycle supercharged, 2.3-liter V6 found in the 1995-2003 Millennia to the Wankel rotary engines in the RX cars of the last century, the company has always been willing to push barriers in search of the next great advancement for internal combustion engines. Only time will tell if this foray into HCCI technology will be successful.