Tag Archive | "SkyActiv"

Cheaper Car Insurance Through Technology


As with most of the technology in our 21st Century lives, there are good things and bad things. Cars are no different. The reasons for fitting complicated and expensive to repair electronic parking brakes have never been fully explained. With vehicles that warm up quickly, is there any real call for heavy electric seats? Whatever, they’re with us now and some people obviously like them.

Sometimes though, technology turns up a really good idea. It was one Heinrich Hertz who, in the closing years of the 19th Century found that radio waves bounced off metal objects (strangely, he then went on to invent car rentals). The idea of radar (radio detection and ranging for the purists) was developed over the years with events speeding up rapidly during the 2nd World War. All this science and engineering was building up to one thing – the front end of the new Mazda CX-5.

Although by no means alone in this field of development, Mazda have been actively investing in this technology to help reduce the severity of collisions and the excellent and highly driveable CX-5 is the first in the Japanese company’s range to feature radar across this 18 model SUV range.

It’s called ‘Smart City Brake Support’ and it’s one of products to feature in Mazda’s SKYACTIV range of technologies. This is an automatic emergency braking system that uses sensors in the front of the CX-5 to monitor speed and distance to the vehicle in front. If the system decides that it’s all getting a bit leary and a shunt is imminent, the brakes are applied. For now, the technology works best at speeds below nineteen mph. This doesn’t sound a lot but in reality there are many slow speed crunches that often cause a disproportionate amount of damage.

Even the most hardened of technophobes should be impressed by this. As research and development continues, there is much that could be achieved with this science.

The really, really good news is that, from the 20th October, the Association of British Insurers have lowered this car’s insurance rating by two groups. This could make as much as fifty pounds difference on the average premium. It is said that if this technology were adopted on all cars then the occurrence of accidents would drop by 27% across Europe. Obviously there’s no way of proving this claim but what is sure is the fact that the CX-5 is a very impressive car indeed. A class act.

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A New Era of Engines


Motorists are beginning to despair for their future motoring. The rising cost of fuel, for which the government must take a large portion of the blame, has really started to bite. Many people rely on their cars, whether it is for work or because they live in rural areas, for example. Public transport is often cited as an alternative but bus companies won’t service unprofitable routes and the cost of train tickets for regular travel is for many people greater than that of running a small vehicle. Fortunately, car manufacturers are not sitting idly by and, now that the government in its wisdom has decided to tax electric cars from 2015, are working hard on ever more fuel efficient engines.

In addition to hybrid technology and the fuel-sipping motors already on offer, there are other systems undergoing viability testing. Mazda, for example, are confidently trumpeting their ‘SkyActiv’ diesel technology. Briefly, the idea is that instead of raising a diesel engine’s compression, they lower it which allows the fuel to ignite earlier in the combustion cycle. Although this produces a smaller ‘bang’ the effect lasts longer promoting torque and refinement. Because the compression ratio is lower the engine does not have to be so hefty, resulting in a lighter unit which has better torque and achieves a 20% fuel saving.

Another interesting new concept is flywheel technology http://panniekazino.com/ which has already appeared on some experimental vehicles. Flywheels can store the energy on hybrid vehicles that would be otherwise lost under braking, for use again under acceleration. They are much cleaner and cheaper to make and, now that the science has moved forward, smaller and lighter as well. The downside is that they can’t store power for long and are dependant on brake use.

As has been seen on the new Bentley V8, cylinder deactivation is already a viable fuel saving solution. This is of course terrific if you have the necessary £140k but thankfully, Volkswagen is preparing small four cylinder units, using pretty much the same method as the Bentley, that will have what is described as ‘variable displacement’ technology allowing the car to run on just two cylinders at appropriate times. Meanwhile over at Mercedes Benz their engineers are working on the Diesotto engine which aims to give petrol engine performance with the fuel efficiency of the very best diesel.

On the new and highly regarded EV, the Vauxhall Ampera, when the juice runs out a small 1.4L petrol engine steps in to act as a generator. Manufacturers are looking at ways to improve on this basic idea. Jaguar demonstrated gas turbines on its concept supercar the C-X75 – although it is thought that these won’t make production. Audi meanwhile are currently working on a small Wankel rotary engine of only 250cc for its A1 e-tron range extender concept. Add to all these experimentation ideas the cyclone external combustion engines – too complicated to detail here – and fuel saving electrically operated engine valves and you can get an idea of how car makers are pushing the envelope to keep motoring alive.

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