Mazda Pushes Carbon-Neutral ICE Bio Fuels

Mazda is fighting-the-good-fight for ICE technology by exploring the commercial viability of carbon neutral bio-fuels from micro-algae.

This is important news for the automotive industry because while some nations are choosing the knee-jerk reaction of focusing solely on BEV technology despite uncertain market viability and dubious carbon footprint credentials, others may see exploitation of existing infrastructure as a more climate-friendly and consumer acceptable near future alternative.

Mazda is currently involved in joint research projects and studies as part of an industry-academia-government collaboration to promote the wide-spread adoption of these biofuels. It’s part of the automaker’s strategy to reducing its average well-to-wheel CO2 emissions to 50% of 2010 levels by 2030 and to 90% by 2050.

In anticipation of ICE combined with electrified powertrains will make up 95% of the vehicles it produces in 2030, and that liquid fuel will remain dominant in the automotive industry until at least 2040, Mazda believes a renewable liquid fuel is essential to drastic CO2 reduction. It argues that, when burned in a modern engine, algae biofuel only releases CO2 recently removed from the atmosphere via photosynthesis in the growing stages of the algae. Mazda considers its development to be critical to achieving the carbon-neutrality of cars powered by ICE.

It points to micro-algae biofuel’s numerous attributes as a renewable liquid fuel because it can be farmed on land unsuitable for agriculture, can be grown with minimal impact on freshwater resources, can be produced using saline and wastewater, has a high flash point and is biodegradable and relatively harmless to the environment if spilled.

It is lending research-accelerating technical support to the combination of research into genome editing by Hiroshima University and plant physiology by the Tokyo Institute of Technology targeting improved productivity and reducing costs of the fuel. Mazda has a long history of ICE innovation from developing rotary technology for mass market applications and latterly with the Mazda3 and CX-30 being offered with its 2.0-liter 176bhp Skyactiv-X spark controlled compression ignition (SPCCI) gasoline engine. Further, it will focus its BEV products on markets in regions that generate electricity from clean energy sources or restrict certain vehicle types to reduce air pollution.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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