Mazda Combustion Technology News Sends Jolt Through Electric Car Industry

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Not so fast, electric cars. Japanese automaker Mazda said Tuesday that it had achieved a breakthrough in combustion-engine technology that could keep gasoline-powered vehicles on the road a while longer, remaining a competitor with the electric car.

Mazda said in a press release that the engine technology will be up to 30% more efficient than the carmaker’s conventional systems. It hopes to have the system ready for 2019 models.

Mazda said in a statement:

In light of the rapid changes taking place in the automotive industry, the new vision takes a longer-term perspective and sets out how Mazda will use driving pleasure, the fundamental appeal of the automobile, to help solve issues facing people, the earth and society. … Mazda hopes to help create a future in which people, the earth and society can coexist with cars, to enrich people’s lives through a car ownership experience that celebrates driving, and to become a brand with which customers feel a strong emotional connection.

Mazda is a small player in the U.S. auto market, taking on 1.7% of market share, according to vehicle data provider AutoData. The announcement on Tuesday in Hiroshima comes days after Mazda announced a partnership with deep-pocketed rival Toyota to develop electric vehicles and build a $1.6 billion assembly plant in the United States.

Mazda’s announcement also comes about a month after Swedish automaker Volvo said it planned to switch to electric cars or hybrids.

Mazda calls its new compression-ignition technology Skyactiv-X. The new technology twins a turbocharger with a piston-compressed fuel-air mixture in a process that would allow combustion from compression alone, similar to a diesel engine. It would eliminate the need for spark plugs under certain conditions and make the engine more fuel efficient.

The carmaker said its goal is to cut emissions emanating from its vehicles to 50% of 2010 levels by 2030 and 90% by 2050.