It is a fact that every automaker strives to improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles and reduce their environmental footprint. To do this, most companies are turning to complex hybrid engines combining electric motors of variable power and different types of gasoline or diesel engines. Could it be that there is nothing more to be gained from a combustion engine?
Mazda engineers do not think so. With the introduction of SKYACTIV technology first on the Mazda CX-5 and now available on the Mazda 3 and Mazda 6, Mazda demonstrates to the automotive world that it is still possible to improve fuel economy of a vehicle without adding an electric motor.
The main objectives of SKYACTIV technology are to improve the thermal efficiency of a combustion engine, to reduce friction and energy loss, to reduce the weight of the various components and to optimize the internal functioning of a conventional automobile. In other words, Mazda engineers didn't try to reinvent the wheel, they just made sure it was as round as possible.
EFFICIENT AND ECONOMICAL ENGINE
SKYACTIV technology starts with the engine. Currently there are two SKYACTIV-G engines available in the Mazda lineup including the 2.0 liter 155 horsepower four-cylinder engine found in the Mazda 3 SKYACTIV as well as the 184 horsepower 2.5 liter found in the Mazda CX -5 GT and the 2014 Mazda 6.
The main advantage of the SKYACTIV engine is its very high compression ratio of 13.0: 1. Such a compression ratio is unheard of in this price range and allows the engine to produce more power from a given amount of fuel. In other words, you get more power with less fuel. The biggest challenge with a high compression ratio is that it can generate engine knock, which can occur when high pressure gases enter the cylinder as it begins its subsequent intake cycle. In order to combat this phenomenon, Mazda engineers have developed a special 4-2-1 exhaust system which ensures that the high pressure gases have more time to travel before entering the next cylinder, thus reducing the risk knocking.
Inside the engine, an advanced direct injection system serves to stabilize combustion so that the engine burns fuel efficiently and optimally. In addition, a specially designed piston cavity also helps improve combustion. Finally, many engine components have been examined to ensure that they are as light as possible and that they work with maximum efficiency in order to reduce internal friction which results in loss of energy.
The engine is obviously an important component of any vehicle, but it is the transmission that dictates how power will be transferred to the wheels. To ensure that drivers get the most out of their SKYACTIV-G engines, Mazda engineers have redesigned both transmissions, the automatic and the manual, to preserve Mazda's Zoom-Zoom personality, but without sacrificing energy efficiency.
Mazda's SKYACTIV-MT 6-speed manual transmission is designed with driving pleasure and performance in mind. When the time came to design the manual gearbox for its Mazda 3, Mazda 6 and Mazda CX-5 models, Mazda used the MX-5 as a benchmark. The SKYACTIV-MT transmission features the shortest travel stroke in its class providing a connected driving feel while being easy to handle. In addition, this new 6-speed manual transmission is lighter and more compact, which helps to balance the distribution and the total weight of the vehicle.
Most manufacturers are turning to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for better fuel efficiency and a dual-clutch sports transmission for performance. At Mazda, engineers wanted to incorporate these two characteristics and therefore decided to create a new 6-speed automatic transmission that would incorporate the best qualities of both types of transmissions. In other words, Mazda looked at most of the transmissions on the market, took the best elements from each, and created the perfect automatic transmission. A new advanced control module has also been integrated into the automatic transmission for improved precision as well as improved reliability.
A STRONG, LIGHTWEIGHT PLATFORM
Getting the most out of a vehicle is Mazda’s goal. After the engine and transmission overhaul, Mazda engineers turned to the platform and chassis with the same goal in mind: to make everything more efficient in order to help both fuel consumption and dynamics.
The SKYACTIV platform features a body that is 8% lighter and 30% stiffer. This rigidity improves both passenger safety and road holding. In addition, Mazda engineers wanted to create a better symbiosis between the driver and the vehicle. To do this, they turned to the suspension to improve agility at low speeds while increasing stability at high speeds.
Mazda has always liked to do things a little differently. With the introduction of SKYACTIV technology, the Japanese automaker proves that there is still room to improve the engineering of a vehicle to make it more fuel efficient and dynamic without resorting to hybrid or electric motors. Oh, and without losing the Zoom-Zoom aspect of Mazda products so popular with consumers!