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Analysis

Mazda SkyActiv Raises the Bar

Mon, 09/01/2014 - 17:37

Mazda has developed a series of technologies, known as SkyActiv, that increase fuel efficiency and engine output, while offering additional benefits such as increased safety performance. The focus of SkyActiv is on engines, transmissions, bodies and chassis, sleeker external designs, and lightweight structural components. The Mazda6 and some versions of the Mazda3 and the CX-5 use SkyActiv technology. Leopoldo Orellana, President and CEO of Mazda México Sales and Commercial Operations, explains: “The economies of scale for hybrid and electric vehicles are just not there yet. For that reason we are focusing on making fuel engines much more efficient and this is why we have developed the new SkyActiv technology.”

Current combustion engines waste about 70% of the fuel combustion energy before this is transferred to the wheels. Mazda aims to make combustion more efficient by developing engines with improved combustion ratios. The SkyActiv G 2.0L engine improves fuel economy by 15% even when using regular gasoline. To achieve this, the Mazda engineering team placed a dome on each piston to raise the compression ratio. The problem with this design is that fuel and air, when combined, ignite too soon. Mazda therefore used cutting-edge engineering to prevent the chamber from getting too hot. A high pressure fuel injector fires gasoline into the cylinder at 3,000psi to help keep it cool. To get the hot air out without sending it into the other cylinder, Mazda added a longer exhaust manifold. Overall, SkyActiv engines improve oil pump efficiency by 74%, water pump efficiency by 31%, friction on pistons, rods, and camshafts by 25%, and reduces the effort the engine exerts to suck in fresh air by 13%.

In addition to engine efficiency, a car has to be responsive. A poor transmission will not allow the engine’s power to be efficiently transferred to the wheels. SkyActiv improved fuel efficiency and responsiveness of transmissions. The torque converter transfers engine power to the transmission through fluid, but the loss of power transfer through the fluid affects fuel efficiency. Mazda developed a torque converter with a lock-up clutch, which locks the torque converter’s turbine to the impeller to improve fuel economy and direct drive feel. Mazda thought of the first-gear smoothness and controllability of a traditional automatic transmission and the direct connectivity and fuel efficiency of a manual transmission, ultimately integrating the torque converter of a traditional automatic and the clutch of a manual. The SkyActiv Drive 6-Speed automatic transmission has an advanced control module that shifts with quickness and precision, thus improving fuel economy by 7%. The SkyActiv Platform (body and chassis) is based on high engineering and uses intelligent materials, such as high-tensile steel that is lighter yet stronger than conventional steel, to reduce the car’s weight by 100kg, improve body rigidity by 30%, and improve car crash safety performance. The suspension was also redesigned to make the car more agile at low speeds and more stable at high speeds.