Mazda is doubling down on its dedication to the internal combustion engine, indicating a future engine tech called Skyactiv-3 could be as clean as an electric vehicle when emissions from electricity generation are factored into the equation.

As the numeral suggests, the engine in question would be the third generation of Mazda's Skyactiv powerplants, which made their Canadian debut in the 2012 Mazda3. Automotive News said Mazda revealed its plan at an auto industry technical conference in Tokyo.

The news comes as Mazda is prepping its second-gen Skyactiv-X engines -- which ignite fuel through the use of both spark plugs and compression -- for a 2019 launch.

Mazda says it can achieve its goal of reducing a gas engine's carbon footprint to match that of an EV if it can make an engine capable of 56 per cent thermal efficiency, a measure of how much of a fuel's energy is converted to power rather than wasted as heat. Doing so would involve more than doubling the thermal efficiency of Mazda's latest Skyactiv technology.

But Mazda's claims assume electricity generated through the burning of fossil fuels like natural gas.  Hydro and nuclear generation, both of which are common in Ontario, plus largely hydro BC and Quebec electricity generation, emit little to no greenhouse gases.

Right now, the Toyota Prius's gas engine is tops in thermal efficiency, at about 40 per cent -- about equal to what a diesel can achieve -- while most gasoline-fueled cars are around 25 per cent. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently named Mazda the automaker with the most efficient vehicle lineup, in spite of the Japanese company being among the few mainstream manufacturers without a single electrified model in its lineup.

According to Guinness World Records, the world's most efficient combustion power plant is a French electricity generating facility that has achieved 62.22 per cent efficiency.