Mazda Falsely Claims Skyactiv 3 Will Be Cleaner Than EVs


A lot of fuzzy math is necessary to make Mazda’s claim seem true though.

Mazda hasn’t even put its Skyactiv-X engine technology on sale yet, but the automaker has already started working on its next major internal combustion innovations, dubbed Skyactiv-3. By boosting the powerplant’s thermal efficiency to around 56 percent, the company figures that the mill would have well-to-wheel emissions on par with an EV, according to Automotive News.

We know this not to be true though, but we’ll play along.

Mazda makes this claim based on the carbon dioxide emissions from producing electricity for charging an EV against pumping oil out of the ground and refining it into gasoline. The problem with this calculation is that there are a variety of ways to produce electricity, and they produce vastly different amounts of CO2. For example, an area getting power from renewable sources would be far cleaner than a region with a coal-fired powerplant.

Estimated difference in life cycle GHG emissions (gCO2eq mi−1) of selected plug-in electric vehicles (2013 Nissan Leaf BEV, 2013 Chevrolet Volt PHEV, and 2013 Prius PHEV) relative to selected gasoline vehicles (2010 Prius HEV and 2014 Mazda 3). In each case, blue indicates that the PEV has lower GHG emissions than the gasoline vehicle and red indicates that the PEV has higher GHG emissions than the gasoline vehicle.

Mazda doesn’t know exactly when the Skyactiv-3 engines would be ready for market, but the company believes that they would reduce CO2 emissions by 25 percent, according to Automotive News.

Meanwhile, the Skyactiv-X technology will be ready to hit showrooms within a few years. The system will be the first compression-ignition gasoline engine to go on sale to the public. This process will compress the fuel-air mixture in the cylinder until it explodes (or almost explodes), somewhat like a diesel. Depending on configuration, it may then get minimal assistance from a spark plug in order to combust. The tech will boost fuel economy by 20 to 30 percent and improve torque by 10 to 20 percent by a conventional 2.0-liter engine running on 87-octane fuel.

Mazda doesn’t have all its bets on combustion engines, though. Even the Skyactiv-X mills are similar to mild hybrids, and the company intends to introduce a full EV in 2020. A plug-in hybrid would arrive in 2021.

The following video gives us a better idea of exactly how such a system works:

Source: Automotive News

Categories: Mazda


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57 Comments on "Mazda Falsely Claims Skyactiv 3 Will Be Cleaner Than EVs"

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Smile, nod politely, walk away.

If the Mazda can maintain 56% thermal efficiency for any length of time, that is nearing the efficiency of most combustion power plants. Meaning, before you account for any loss in power transmission, the emissions from the Mazda should be comparable to the power plant.

After accounting transmission losses of electricity to your car and losses in the battery the Mazda will be better. I don’t know why people blindly refuse to acknowledge this. I would go EV anyway as I prefer them, but vehicles like this would work to solve emissions.

If you wanna go there then also factor in the emissions and energy required to extract and produce gasoline. No way ice can compete.

You have extraction losses for the natural gas at the power plant and for gasoline from the car, we can probably say they balance out. Maybe they don’t, but I am ignoring the extraction for both. Honestly, if you look at extraction losses for natural gas I don’t think the CO2 emissions are much better than coal, especially if you leak methane.

Refinement? The nat gas is used in pretty much the form that is extracted, not so much for oil which needs additional energy and emissions to get to gasoline.

What transmission losses? My planned solar panels are less than 20 meters from where I plan to park the car.

I clearly wasn’t talking about solar, but natural gas, since that was used for the comparison and makes up 34% of the US grid, 65% of the grid is from fossil fuels, and natural gas is cleaner than the coal alternative (30% of the grid). Point being is that car would be cleaner than most EVs since so much of the grid is fossil fuel based. Clearly that is changing, but that change will take a while.

GE 9HA combined cycle natural gas turbine generation has an advertised 64% thermal efficiency. This is, of course, before transmission losses, and is using the optional combined cycle heat recovery steam turbine.

Just the economies of scale of refueling a powerplant versus cars is probably enough to blow that comparision completely out of the water.
Millions of litres most likely supplied by pipeline to a single location versus shipping it all over the countryside in trucks and then physically driving the cars themselves to be refueled.

The national grid is more like 40% efficient on average. So EVs are not much more efficient than a good hybrid.

Does it take into account the Diesel Semi to get the fuel to the service station? The tanker to bring it across the world? The several wars we have had to secure the Middle Eastern fuel source? The processes to extract and refine the fuel?
I’m not sure what the US is like, but our power stations are pretty much right next door to the coal deposits, and gas is pumped in pipes, so quite a bit of difference in the way the base fuel is delivered to the end user.
And as everyone points out, solar and renewables are the future, so that only gets better but fossil fuels will mostly remain the same.

What’s the difference to a Diesel engine?

InsideEVs is slightly wrong here. The skyactive-X engine will compress the gas _almost_ to the point of self-combustion and then use a spark plug to “push it over the edge”. It was excellently explained by Engineering Explained on Youtube the other day:

Thanks! I’ll look into it later.

Thank you.

No, IEVs isn’t wrong. Some operating modes will be solely compression-ignition, some will use a small spark to get the ignition going.

I read (somewhere – sorry no reference) that a gasoline compression-ignition engine produces ultra-fine particulates rather like a Diesel.

If true, not good. And likely to be banned somewhere down the road.

It depends on particular engine engineering. CARB thinks it maybe solved in new redesigned engines. As the last resort, particulate filter would catch most of them.

“The results from both
vehicles show that GPFs are an effective control technology to meet future 1 mg/mi PM
standards, even for particularly challenging engines.”

I think you are talking about GDI gasoline engines.

Diesel does not need a spark plug to maintain operation, but does use a glow plug to initiate operation of the engine.
Also the compression ratio is much higher.

“The problem with this calculation is that there are a variety of ways to produce electricity, and they produce vastly different amounts of CO2.”

Mazda is specifically basing its claim on electricity derived from a natural gas power plant.

From the Automotive News article:
“Mazda believes it can cut carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent. That would give Mazda’s gasoline engines real world well-to-wheel fuel economy comparable to EVs deriving their electricity through the burning of liquefied natural gas, Hitomi said.”

I like EVs and I look forward to owning one some day soon. They have many benefits aside from being greener than your average ICE vehicle. But this kind of blatant anti-Mazda article smells like a hit piece. It doesn’t do anyone any good.

How is this a hit piece? Mazda bases its claim on Nat Gas energy production which will see its market share shrinking in the future years by the time they market this. Not to mention that many ev owners are also pv owners. I find the focus on CO2 a convenient distraction from the poisons the combustion engines produce that have an immediate effect on out health.

Where are you getting this? Natural gas has been replacing coal (which is great by the way), and overall consumption and share of electricity generated from it is going UP, not down.

Look at trends data. After coal is gone what do you think will be next on the list? We all know solar and wind are on a accelerated ascend so it’s just a question of time before nat gas starts to lose market share.

I am in Ontario, Canada most of own electric power comes from hydro or nuclear sources with NG being 3.5% of our power.


Cutting CO² emissions by 25% means there is 75% left.

Solar & Storage in the US is now cheaper than natural gas peaked plants. There will never be another Nat gas peaked Plant built. — Economics. ( The Profit Motive. )

I just want to point out that the red vs blue chart is based on old data. The U.S. electric grids have become significantly cleaner since then. The graphic in this article was published by a Carnegie Mellon group (which does very good work) back in 2012, obviously based on data older than that. In 2017 EPA finally updated the grid emissions report to include data collected in 2014. Union of Concerned Scientists organized that data into this graphic which shows that in much of the U.S. EV’s produce less emissions than any ICE vehicle, while here in the Midwest the crossover point is in the 40’s to 50’s MPG. Of course, it’s also likely the grid has continued to improve since 2014.×749.jpg

Repub policy typically has a 20 year tail or drag on the facts.

Thanks. I’ve added that image in too.

Mazda’s new engine is great improvement comparing to old Mazda engines. Though other automakers went far ahead as well, so it remains to be seen how much difference it will make in practice. I don’t think it is not going to match new hybrids.

Anyway, EPA still uses
1,640.7 lbs CO2/MWh × (4.536 × 10-4 metric tons/lb) × 0.001 MWh/kWh = 7.44 × 10-4 metric tons CO2/kWh
marginal emission factor.

Assuming you are somehow clean and virtuous just because you add new electricity consumption somewhere next to Hoover dam is ludicrous. Most existing hydro energy already has use, and few more dams or nuclear plants are going to be built in developed world.

Natural gas for new consumption is best case North America scenario. Chinese companies are still busy building coal plants all over the developing world. Germany effectively switched from nuclear to brown coal after Fukushima, despite all the money spent on Energiewende. Solar is still hardly visible spot in the big picture, and it is not going to change soon.

“Natural gas for new consumption is best case North America scenario”

That’s “new production”, not “new consumption”. New loads that get added to the grid are no more responsible for the increased production than old loads that remain on the grid. Both are equally responsible, and should thus equally share the clean sources as well as the dirty ones. Thus, saying that any new load is powered solely by gas is incorrect.

It’s impressive that they can still squeeze more performance out of the ICE. Of course, as long as it runs on fossil fuel it doesn’t matter in the end anyway. This engine might only delay the inevitable for a couple of years maybe.

Well, frankly, sounds like a great engine to put in a PHEV type drivetrain to get the best of both worlds.

To the author @Chris Bruce:

Putting up 2013 lifetime estimates in 2018 strongly tilts the scales against EVs in two ways:

1. Most leading EVs have become a good 20-30% more efficient since then

2. The US grid (and most global grids) have become drastically less coal-dependent since then, and coal fraction – which is by far the main driver of lifetime EV footprint calculations – continues to drop like a lump of sad coal.

It takes about 6 kW/hrs of electricity just to produce a gallon of gas. This 6 kW/hrs would otherwise give you about 20 miles range in an EV with the only emissions being from the coal plant in the worst case.

The gallon of gas however, will get you about 26 miles of range in a fossil car for the same emissions from the power plant used in producing the gas, but you still have to ADD the emissions from combusting that gas.

In short, you are a lunatic if you think combustion engine vehicles produce less (or equal) emissions than electric vehicles.

No, no, no, fake news. Gasoline comes right out of the ground fully refined.

“No, no, no, fake news. Gasoline comes right out of the ground fully refined.”

It depends on the location. Oil from many wells in Angola / Nigeria region are almost gasoline straight from the ground. But from Venezuela it’s more like sulfur-rich tar.

There are also shale oil recovery technologies that break down the heavier crude while in the ground which makes it easier to recover and also much easier to refine.

LICE vehicle manufacturers are having their “coming to Jesus” moment where they unveil all the efficiency tech they’ve been sitting on, to maintain the profits of the oil industry (their benefactors), in a desperate attempt to remain in the marketplace.
Criminals all.

Btw they mean CO2 on par with LNG derived electricity.

Yeah, Mazda just invented a better typewriter right before everyone starts switching to computer-based word processors!

Mazda would have been smarter to put the resources into PEV engineering rather then ICE and then maybe they might be able to be competitive going forward in the next decade.

“Mazda would have been smarter to put the resources into PEV engineering rather then ICE and then maybe they might be able to be competitive going forward in the next decade.”

No. There is an unavoidable law of economics, which is that transactions tend toward lower cost. No matter how great EVs become, until they are cheaper than gasoline, they will not gain popular acceptance.

At the current pace of EV battery cost decline, that point of parity will occur some time around 2023-2025. The Skyactiv-X will improve efficiency by ~25% with a minimal cost increase (~$500). Being so much cheaper yet still delivering that much improvement delays the point of parity by ~7 yr to 2030 or later. And by then, it’s likely Mazda will have their adiabatic engine which they’ve hinted will be another 20%+ improvement in efficiency.

From a “competitive” standpoint, the Mazda approach is the winner.

Completely wrong.

“From a “competitive” standpoint, the Mazda approach is the winner.”

Yes, they’ll be winning until 2030, and then they’ll go out of business.

These claims are just that, claims.

How clean is it when it is not on a EPA test dyno?

I think that 56% efficiency is at – or above – the Carnot limit?

And piston engines with conventional crankshafts, have pretty severe limitations of converting heat into motion. The geometry of the piston at TDC in relation to the crankshaft – is terrible.

Compare this to rotary engines – or the electric motor, which has nearly perfect force geometry, and Mazda’s claimed efficiency is mighty unlikely.

A huge point often missed is that improving gasoline technology will improve the majority of new vehicles, while EVs only improve a tiny fraction (currently less than 1% in the US). Thus, when you do the math, it becomes clear which strategy has the most overall benefit.

Obviously, battery tech has limitations. EVs work great for smaller vehicles for use in cities/commuting. They have less advantage for larger vehicles or vehicles that drive very long distances.

Consequently, EVs displace the most efficient gasoline cars. They reduce a tiny fraction (1%) of cars’ emissions by ~70%. That’s great, and there should be no complaints about it. But compare that to what improved gasoline engine tech can do. This tech can be directly dropped into SUVs, trucks, and even sports cars. Those are least efficient vehicles on the road, meaning improvements to them reduce more emissions. If Mazda pursued EVs, they’d have one dedicated EV, which would cannibalize their 3 or CX-5 sales, but with Sky-X, they can put it in every vehicle, including the CX-9 and other future SUVs. They can cut their emissions across the entire product line 25% when an EV would have an impact of less than 3%.

Replacing ICE with EVs are a direct improvement to air quality and can be dropped into any vehicle architecture (just look at all the conversions on YT) with dramatic improvement to health and national security. Continuing to make room for LICE enriches a few in the dirty, expensive, and conflict ridden oil industry while shifting to clean, cheaper TCO, EVs makes the country safer and healthier.
LICE industry has got to go.

I am not saying Mazda is right – but there is a lot wrong with this article. It references “Skyactiv 3” which is not what it is called. The graph referencing the 3 with iEloop is not the Skyactiv X engine – that is the current-generation car. Skyactiv X is not a “mild hybrid” (but the 3 with iEloop could be construed as such). Also, lots of grammar mistakes.

I believe PGE in Oregon is now using only renewable, mostly hydro and wind, plus years ago I signed up with Arcadia to further promote renewables for the full amount of my usage. Wouldn’t make sense to power an EV with coal. Glad Mazda is improving while we all gear up, could be years getting away from ICEs, especially diesel trucks. Help Tesla!

And they also indicate they are working on an EV. The sad fact is many cities are banning emissions entirely, so these companies have to make an EV. Even a PHEV is no good. Imagine you drive from home to work, the EV range is consumed in your home town (due to emissions restrictions) and when you get to the next town you have no EV range left, so now you are penalised by those emissions fines.
No matter what they do, it is only an emissions reduction and not a zero emissions vehicle.
And I don’t trust Mazda anymore. My CX5 goes about 300km and then it does a DPF burn, uses twice the amount of fuel during this process. Was this some sort of diesel emissions evasion technique like we saw with VW? I think these car manufacturers will do anything to get around the systems.

Elsewhere, I’ve heard Mazda reps speak about well to wheel emissions in terms not just of upsteam and tailpipe emissions, but in terms of emissions over the entire lifecycle of the vehicle, including emissions involved in their manufacture (something that almost no one bothers to include in their calculations). Batteries are energy intensive things to create, and in the world we live in today, that also means they’re GHG emissions intensive to make. When you include these “embodied emissions” in the final accounting (something our atmosphere certainly does), BEVs don’t compare quite as favorably against efficient ICE and small battery hybrid vehicles any more, even when they’re operating in grids that have low GHG intensity electricity.

Cleaner than an EV charged by coal fired power plants.