Think Diesels Are Truly Dead? Mazda Would Disagree

Mazda will reportedly unveil a new diesel engine in 2020

Think Diesels Are Truly Dead? Mazda Would Disagree
Mazda currently sells only one diesel model in the U.S. – the CX-5 Signature. [Photos: Mazda]

Electric cars are the future. At least, that’s what most automakers’ decision to unleash a stampede of new EV models would lead you to believe. Even Mazda is set to unveil a zero-emission vehicle at this week’s Tokyo Motor Show, but that doesn’t mean the automaker is ready to abandon internal combustion. Quite the contrary, as Mazda Europe’s R&D head Christian Schultze recently told Autocar.

Not only is Mazda still committed to its gasoline engines by way of SkyActiv-X, but the company is also doubling down on diesels, at a time when most other manufacturers are abandoning the technology. “We are sticking to diesel engines. In 2020, we have a new approach to diesel engines. We will show you how clean and very efficient diesel engines can be.”

Think Diesels Are Truly Dead? Mazda Would Disagree
We’ve yet to see Mazda’s SkyActiv-X technology in the U.S. market, but will we see an expanded diesel range? We’ll have to wait and see.

Mazda is taking a multi-pronged approach to developing its future models. Instead of jumping entirely on the electrification bandwagon, the company will continue to develop its SkyActiv-X engine as well as diesel powertrains. Down the line, we may well see rotary range extenders, plug-in hybrids and all-electric models sold alongside Mazda’s conventional models, rather than replacing them. ” Schultze’s comments reflect Mazda’s approach to reduce “well-to-wheel” emissions over the coming decades.

In developing SkyActiv-X, the company contends that “the internal combustion engine will continue to be the base power unit for 85 percent of all cars up until 2035.” SkyActiv-X units are gasoline-powered, but incorporate a diesel-like compression ignition aspect into the traditional spark ignition philosophy to burn fuel more efficiently and reduce CO2 emissions. See more on that technology below:

Waiting for more details

Naturally, the feasibility of Mazda’s commitment to diesel engines really lies in the details. We have yet to even see SkyActiv-X gasoline technology in the U.S.-spec Mazda3. We do finally have the company’s current-generation diesel engine in the CX-5, but only in its top Signature trim.

Even if new diesel technology is coming — if the company makes good on its “surprise” next year — it may be awhile before we see it in the U.S. After waiting years for the diesel we have to arrive, it’s likely Mazda will launch the technology in Europe, under the EU’s stringent emissions standards, before coming here. A white-space is already emerging as automakers give up on diesels, and it may be an area where Mazda could capitalize, depending on how it handles its next generation powertrains.