When it comes to advanced powertrains, most of the automotive sector has congregated around hybrid and electric technology such as parallel hybrids, range-extended electric vehicles or pure electrics. However, just a few years back, several automakers, such as Volkswagen, General Motors and Mercedes-Benz were investigating the area of sparkless ignition for performance and economy gains.

Sparkless ignition technology is nothing new. In fact, diesel engines rely on it. However, its use in gasoline engines is very rare but the potential of a gasoline engine that combines the torque and fuel economy of a modern diesel with cleaner emissions is obvious.

Mercedes-Benz is one of the leaders in this area, calling its technology DiesOtto and even previewing it in the F700 concept car back in 2007. According to a new report, the technology is not dead and that Mercedes-Benz is working on a production version.

The initial concept engine was a small twin-turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder that delivered an amazing 238 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Initial testing showed fuel consumption at around 39 mpg, and this was in a large S-Class sedan.

The technology works by using purely compressive forces to ignite the charged fuel and air mix inside the cylinder at low revs and a spark plug when there’s high load, such as accelerating up a hill.

Speaking with What Car? at the recent 2010 Paris Auto Show, Professor Herbert Kohler, vice president of future mobility at Mercedes-Benz, revealed that a production version is coming within the next five years and testing is still underway.

While the technology is still several years away, savor the thought of combining a sparkless ignition gasoline engine with a hybrid system. Expect to see the DiesOtto debut in a variation of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class in roughly five years.

[What Car?