Mazda’s Solution That Works . . . If Uncle Will Allow It

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If you were counting calories, would you exclude the deep-fried shell of the taco you’re planning to eat?

Probably not – unless you weren’t really counting calories.

What has this to do with cars? A lot, it turns out. In particular, electric cars – which are touted as being “zero emissions” cars. For the most part, this is like not counting some of the calories you consume.

You are only fooling yourself.

Utility plants use fossil fuels to generate electricity, which generates emissions.

Including the newly minted one, carbon dioxide. Which didn’t used to be considered an “emission,” because it’s not. It is of course emitted – whether at the tailpipe or the smokestack – but C02 hasn’t got anything to do with air pollution or people’s health, which used to be the criteria for designating a byproduct of human activity a pollutant.

And the justification for regulating it.

Carbon dioxide has been lumped in with harmful to both air quality and to people’s health compounds precisely because those compounds have been all-but-eliminated and are no longer a public health or air quality worry.

A new hobby horse had to found – in order to justify the continuation (and expansion) of regulation.

But more on that in a moment.

 If carbon dioxide is an “emission,” then certainly the output of C02 from utility plants that  generate the electricity which powers electric cars ought to be factored into the total “calorie count.”

This is Mazda’s entirely reasonable argument, at any rate.

Mazda is the only major automaker not jumping on the electric car bandwagon – which is more like the electric car cliff. As in Pied Piper and rats headed toward. Instead, Mazda is focusing on internal combustion engines which are not only exceptionally “clean” – they are cleaner than electric cars.

If the totality of their respective emissions is taken into account.

Mitsuo Hitomi – Mazda’s powertrain chief – made precisely this argument as part of the public announcement of its new hybrid compression ignition/spark-ignition engine. It is not a hybrid in the usual sense – an internal combustion engine paired with an electric motor/battery pack. Instead, it combines diesel and gas technology – the idea being to blend the advantages of both.

Diesels (compression ignition engines) are more fuel-efficient than gas (spark ignition) engines. But they are politically incorrect engines. Although the current crop are exceptionally clean-burning engines, they are not quite “clean” enough to pass muster with the zero emissions tailpipe exhaust emissions requirements in force not just in the United States but also in Europe.

Nearly nil is not sufficient.

Gas engines, meanwhile, aren’ t efficient enough to pass muster with the mandatory MPG minimums in force and pending.

Catch 22.

Unless . . .

What if you could design an engine that combines the fuel-efficiency of compression ignition but doesn’t burn diesel – and so no diesel emissions issues? And – adding up everything – produces lower emissions than a “zero emissions” electric car while not being hobbled by the functional gimps and high costs which plague those things?

Mazda has done just that.

The new SkyActive-X engine is 40-56 percent thermally efficient, according to Hitomi – which is nearly twice as thermally efficient as any in-production gas engine – while producing 25 percent less carbon dioxide at the tailpipe. When you add it all up, Hitomi says, the net output of the SkyActive-X engine is less than the net output of the same produced by a “zero emissions” electric car fed by a natural gas-fired utility plant.

And much less than an electric car fed juice produced by a coal-or-oil-fired utility plant.

It’s all true. Mazda’s not blowing smoke. The company produced the hard data to back up the claims. The problem is that Mazda, in its innocence, assumes that “low emissions” and “high mileage” are the government’s true purpose. But Mazda is like Charlie Brown perpetually trying to kick the football which Lucy pulls away at the last moment.

The true object of the exercise is the extermination – via regulation – of internal combustion. Whether gas – or diesel – or both.

It does not matter how “clean” – or fuel-efficient – Mazda (or any other car company) manages to make an engine. It will never be “clean” – or “efficient” – enough. Because the government is determined to get us out of cars that work – and which we can afford – and into cars that don’t work and which we can’t afford.

Electric cars – whether their actual emissions are zero or not.

The fact that they don’t work – they don’t go far enough and they take much too long to recharge – is a plus from the government’s point-of-view. It means less mobility – and greater control.

The fact that electric cars are prohibitively expensive is likewise a plus from the government’s point of view. And from the point-of-view of the corporations which have become de facto agencies of the government. These hope to profit from perpetual revolving debt extracted via endless rent.

Mazda hasn’t bought into this corrupt corporatist-technocratic long con . . . yet. The people running the company are still car people. Finding such at a major automaker these days is not unlike looking for a drink at the Vatican.

Much hangs in the balance. If Mazda can successfully explain to the public that this new engine of theirs answers every stalking horse objection raised by the regulatory regime which serves as the enforcement mechanism of the corporatist-technocratic nexus, it is just possible they might get away with actually putting it into cars and offering it for sale. Mazda intends to offer SkyActive-X in the 2019 Mazda3 sedan/hatchback. Then other Mazda models.

Expect the government to rise to this challenge and find something to fault about this new technology that works.

Even if they have to make it up.

. .  .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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19 COMMENTS

  1. Hello Eric!
    You’re writing is genius and your output is amazingly prolific. Mazda is making superb automobiles under the extreme duress of government regulations. Great job reporting!
    Aloha, Vic

    • Thanks, Vic!

      And, hey …. how about sending some warmth this way? It’s 12 degrees in the Woods right now and my propane tank ran dry last night!:)

  2. Yet more complexity to solve a “problem” which doesn’t exist, except in the minds of tyrants.

    The REAL solution is for people to stop believing the BS that the tyrants peddle.

    I’m just so sick of the automotive industry and the public pandering to this BS. It’s like everyone believing that the Emperor is wearing a fine suit while he is naked. It’s been going for so long now, that those who point out that the Emperor is naked are called crazy; and most are really starting to believe that he is really wearing the fine suit.

  3. I hope they stick to their guns on this all. But it’s likely a losing battle.

    Politicians basically are expecting and expect every automaker to throw out the working technology that has driven the auto business for over a hundred years. And replace it with a fantasy.

  4. “It does not matter how “clean” – or fuel-efficient – Mazda (or any other car company) manages to make an engine. It will never be “clean” – or “efficient” – enough. Because the government is determined to get us out of cars that work – and which we can afford – and into cars that don’t work and which we can’t afford.”

    PRECISELY! Indeed, the contemporary DFI gas engine is already a cleaner, gas/diesel hybrid technology. I have a 2016 Ford Focus DFI engine that got me 39-40 MPG on a 1,000 mile highway trip this summer — with the A/C cranked up the whole way. That’s pretty phenomenal, considering that my two motorcycles get 45 and 50 MPG, respectively.

    But — it’s STILL not good enough for Uncle. The government wants to promote electric and driverless vehicles for control of the proles. Can’t have people driving around all by themselves at will, now, can we? Possibly, it’s all part of the UN Agenda 21 stuff where they want to eliminate suburbs and pack us all into digitally-controlled cities (like hamsters in a Habitrail) in which we all either ride bicycles or take public transit.

    Kinda like Mao’s China, circa 1971 or so…

  5. Considering Mazda’s disregard for anything more than “adequate” power in their vehicles, it’s likely that this engine will be extremely uninspiring. The copy in that link refers to diesel like “responsiveness.” From this, I anticipate sub-Prius horsepower levels.

    Bottom line….even if the feds let them sell it, few will buy it. Give me a gas/electric hybrid any day.

  6. the only electric car that makes any sense is the one with an on board generator. diesel engines used to start because they turned over gas engines used to start because it had one red wire making them rely on software is what enslaves us

  7. It wont work. The cars will not get 55MPG. Even if they do, this 55MPG minimum will increase. The purpose of this is to make the target impossible to reach, thereby creating a new tax revenue stream.

      • Same thing happened to small independent Refinery operations in the late 70’s into the early 80’s. Also to the independent gas station owners. Bankruptcy was their goal and they achieved it through the courts . . .

        I know firsthand of the Refinery Debacle in that I worked (Lead Operator) at the cleanest Refinery in the world and it was shut down for violating the standards set for this plant alone. Curious thing is that California guaranteed the loans, offered engineering approval and building permits and then denied the OPERATING Permit. Absolute Insanity . . . . .They changed the emission requirements for sulfides and oxides after we had met the initial goal… The …Ahem…Courts sided with the EPA and AQMD. Indeed, their COURTS were in the AQMD Building in El Monte Kalifornia.

        Utter BULLSHIT. We should have rebelled against the machine as Industry was being destroyed even back in he late 50’s early 60’s when the Textile Industry was under attack. They (Textile Cos. and Textile Unions) even ran ads trying to educate Americans about the Communist plot to destroy us but nobody acted. Sad, nary a shot was fired from our side . . . .

    • The primary purpose is to financially support an overweight net of worthless bureaucrats, who don’t have the skills and/or talent to perform any productive function whatsoever in society. “Solutions” to their demands are pointless, because they will always invent more useless unnecessary crap to justify their existence, and the systematic extortion and robbery of any productive part of society. Expulsion is ultimately going to be the only solution, lest we all perish from eventual “sepsis of the bowels”.

      • Indeed, Graves… remember the classic Clint Eastwood film, The Outlaw Josey Wales? The jackal Union officer says at one point, “There ain’t no end to doing right.”

        Exactly. This is the mentality we are up against.

        • Great film full of great lines, and very applicable to modern times. Another of my favorite quotes from that film – “We’ve got a saying too, Senator, Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining”!

  8. The SkyActive-X isn’t 56% efficient. The follow on SkyActive-3 will be they claim in about 2022 or so.

    The SkyActive-X will be in the mid 40% range which is still an engineering feat.

    Might want to fix the story.

  9. This sounds like an (unfortunate) swan song for the reciprocating piston internal combustion engine.

    Back in the early 1980s Phillips and Sony introduced the compact disc. It in many ways served as the harbinger of digital technology. But it was expensive and the catalog of recordings was pretty small. And there were other issues because recording and mastering engineers continued to mix and process audio the same way they did for analog recording. It had promise but also lots of problems, and because no one had experience with the technology everyone had to learn in real time. But it was new and convenient and shiny so it got attention and then traction. I still remember the first song I ever heard played on a CD – YYZ by Rush. Never forget it, just pushed a button and there was the song. No cleaning, no clicks and pops, and so small! Great first impression.

    Meanwhile, the new competition kicked the vinyl record factories into thinking about how to improve their product. They had decades of experience, infrastructure and steady revenue to build on. Of course they were also fairly hidebound too, often resisting capital investment and upgrades that didn’t have a measurable impact aside from lowering production costs. But there was innovation taking place. The biggest change came in the form of Direct Metal Mastering (DMM). This was an improved method of producing the dies that were used to press records. It skipped a “father” step in production, meaning a better defined groove. It also decreased the “land” between the groove increasing the playback time. This along with improvements in vinyl chemistry meant that the audio quality could approach the same frequency response of a CD while not drastically increasing production cost. Improvements in turntables motors, preamps and cartridges, as well as convenience features like track sensing and the ability to play both sides of a record kept the vinyl record relevant for years after CD production caught up. Even today most people can easily hear the difference between a well mastered and cared for vinyl record and the same CD, and many will prefer the vinyl. I clearly remember this time because it was when my tastes in music were being developed. I picked up fantastic 1970s era turntables at flea markets for pennies on the dollar as people abandoned the format. My friends in college would scour the used record shops for first pressings of all the classic rock and jazz albums of the 1970s and 80s. While most of us had CD players we had very few CDs to actually play and most of them didn’t hold up to the audio quality of the vinyl. Today 80’s era turntables fetch high premiums on eBay and you can spend a small fortune on new small run vinyl records if you want, but for most music the effort isn’t worth it when you can just search for and play just about anything on your phone with “good enough” quality.

    Much like the vinyl record in the early 1980s, the technological achievement is commendable. But for reasons beyond engineering I doubt it will be a success in the marketplace. A shame really but what can be done? People really believe their electricity comes mostly from hydro-electric and renewables, not coal and natural gas. The truth is lost because all the electric companies’ marketing features wind turbines at sunset, not a coal plant belching out “pollution” -water vapor and CO2 that looks worse than it is. And electric cars do have an edge in some situations like daily commuting in the sun belt. But for most of us who can’t afford a fleet of automobiles the ICE is still the way to go. Will that be the case forever? Hard to say but with all the brainpower going into improving electrics I don’t think so.

    As another aside when I hear someone talk about a renewable project in terms of how many homes it can (potentially) power I always ask how many aluminum smelters it will power. Turns out that answer is usually none.

  10. I believe you have hit the mark with your evaluation of the whole dirty rotten EPA/Automobile situation. The Govt. agencies are so full of cronies that are still high on their “control orgasim” , that there isn’t going to be any end to this chokehold on free enterprise Capitol Hill has become Red Square, and Congress the Politburo.
    I am beginning to have an idea why Russian driving is so chaotic and their people “fatalists”. Why follow any lawful rules when your choices are 1. Slow death by government asphixiation, or 2. Brutal death by head-on crash with a speeding semi-tuck? Road raging by civilians AND the “police” is increasing along with regulation, outrageous taxes, and transportation abuses. Expect it to get worse for everyone but the 1%ers. We won’t just be banned from test-driving GM cars, our next objection to Big-Brother-Diversity-PC-brainwashing-crap may be met with incarceration.

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