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Still a place for petrol engines, says Mazda

Mazda believes petrol and diesel engines still have a future, especially if they are powered by renewable fuels

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Mazda intends to continue making petrol and diesel engines for its future cars – even after countries start banning their sale.

The Japanese manufacturer has reiterated its belief in the future of more efficient internal combustion (i/c) engines, as other makes, such as Audi, announce the dates when they will completely stop making them and switch entirely to electric propulsion.

And Mazda is also throwing its weight behind developments in more environmentally-friendly synthetic and renewable fuels.

The brand has for some years been taking a different route to other manufacturers in reducing emissions, targeting technology gains rather than the industry standard of downsizing existing internal-combustion engines and rushing to electric. Mazda’s first production full battery-electric vehicle (BEV), the MX-30, was only launched earlier this year.

However the new technology, dubbed Skyactiv and stretching across engines, transmissions and chassis, has been preparing the ground for electricity. Innovations have included idling stop-start systems and regenerative braking, along with designs that allow multiple models to be built on one production line, with efficiency gains and emissions savings.

2107 Mazda Jeremy Thomson
Mazda UK boss Jeremy Thomson – taking a different path towards carbon reduction.

“The aim for our products of the next generation, along with the ongoing development of the i/c engine, is to improve the platforms in line with advancing electrification, in other words creating architecture capable of offering multiple solutions,” Mazda UK managing director Jeremy Thomson told The Car Expert.

More electrics

The brand has recently changed its electrification plans, however. A ‘Sustainability 2030 Zoom Zoom road map” released in 2017 aimed to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% over 2010 levels by 2030, and by 90% by 2050, and that BEVs would make up 5% of the Mazda model line-up by 2035. 

This has now been evolved, according to Thomson “reflecting the direction of travel globally”, and now the aim is for 25% BEV sales by 2030. “The remaining 75% will have some form of electrification on top of the highly efficient i/c engine,” Thomson says, adding that Mazda also intends to make its entire business carbon neutral in all areas, including its offices and suppliers, by 2050.

Calling these “ambitious objectives”, Thomson emphasises that Mazda is not “giving up” on petrol and diesel engines. “They will still power the majority of our cars through the world in 2030 and in order to reduce CO2 we have to continue to develop and improve the efficiency of the i/c engine as the globe slowly transitions to electrification.

“We remain committed to creating the ideal combustion engine, and our e-Skyactiv-x engine technology is evolving to get us closer to the perfect engine in terms of emissions and efficiency.”

Mazda MX-30 (2021) side action
Mazda launched its first battery-electric production model, the MX-30, only this year.

Future plans include mild hybrids, plug-in hybrids, full BEVs and hybrids using a rotary engine as a generator, but also four and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. 

“Globally between 2022 and 2025, we will launch five hybrids, five plug-in hybrids and three BEVs from our scaleable architecture,” Thomson said, though he would not specify which of these models would be sold in the UK.

Could fuel be the key?

Developments in fuels are crucial to the future of the internal combustion engine. In Japan, Mazda is part of a collaboration of academics, industry and Government looking at algae-based, renewable fuels.

In Europe, the brand has joined the E-fuel alliance, promoting the development use of fuels made by synthesising atmospheric carbon and hydrogen to create synthetic petrol and diesel.

2107 Mazda e-fuel alliance
Mazda has joined the e-Fuel Alliance developing renewable and synthetic fuels.

“A synthetic or renewable carbon-neutral liquid fuel that can replace the current carbon-based fuel infrastructure is the most efficient way to reduce CO2 for cars on the roads today and i/c engines to come,” Thomson says.

“Through renewable fuels we would be able to decarbonise the transport fleet across the globe quickly and efficiently with little disruption to commerce and people’s lives. It would enable those who continue to drive with internal combustion engines to contribute to CO2 reduction without the cost of changing to electric.” 

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.