Mazda is the latest to step up to the plate with the bold
announcement that it will reduce
fuel consumption on its global portfolio of vehicles 30 percent by 2015.
Mazda plans to achieve this ambitious goal by 1) making its vehicles 200+ pounds lighter
with each redesign, 2) introducing revamped rotary and diesel
engines, and 3) adding a new Smart Idle Stop System to its engines.
On the first point, Mazda is already making great strides.
Mazda managed to make the current
generation Mazda2 200-pounds lighter than its predecessor thanks to the use
of high and ultra-high tensile steel, revised suspension components, reducing
the length of the wiring harness, converting various plastic components from
multiple pieces to a single piece, and shrinking front and rear overhang from
the bumpers. According to Mazda, 60 percent of the weight reduction came from
engineering solutions, 20 percent came from "feature adjustments" and
20 percent from curtailing the exterior dimensions of the vehicle.
Mazda's rotary engine -- not exactly known as a friend to
gasoline or oil for that matter -- is also getting an upgrade early in the next
decade. Mazda promised improved performance and fuel economy thanks to Direct
Injection Spark Injection and "high-speed combustion technology".
Also, Mazda's next generation of diesel engines will employ NOx reduction
technology and direct injection to boost fuel economy by 20 percent while
reducing tailpipe emissions significantly.
Finally, Mazda will use a Smart Idle Stop System (SISS) on
its vehicles to cut off the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop. Hybrid
vehicles already employ such technology, but it is a feature that is rarely
seen in conventional cars. Mazda says that the SISS is good for a seven to
eight percent increase in fuel economy.
When it comes to improving fuel economy, the little things
add up. While it's nice to see manufacturers turn
to hybrid powertrains to improve fuel economy, it's also great to see
engineers look to weight savings and improvements to existing technology to
make similar gains.