Ford used the Detroit Auto Show to debut its plan for energy security
by releasing information about its new EcoBoost engine technology,
which begins with a direct-gasoline-injected, turbocharged V-6 engine
to reduce weight and increase fuel efficiency.
I was extremely fortunate to be invited to represent AskPatty at a dinner with Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford and other select journalists to discuss Ford's "Blueprint for Sustainability." The dinner, hosted by Sue Cischke, Senior Vice President of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering, and John Viera, Ford's Director of Sustainable Business Strategy, presented us an informal opportunity to converse with Bill Ford and learn more about the company's high-volume practical, affordable approach to meeting the coming transportation challenges.
Other journalists in attendance represented such renowned publications as the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The Washington Post, Forbes Business Magazine, and others. It was an unbelievable honor to be present among such respected journalists. In fact, I felt a bit like a goldfish in a pond full of very impressive Koi.
Bill Ford essentially summarized this engine as 'democratizing the
technology,' and it's an analogy that makes a lot of sense: Ford is
placing much of its plan for future sustainability into this platform
because it allows eco-minded shoppers to buy vehicles right now that
are affordable, fuel-efficient, and don't require them to change how
they drive and fuel their vehicles.
While additional hybrid offerings and diesel engines are planned for light-duty vehicles, and Ford still plans to continue to develop plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel-cell-powered vehicles, EcoBoost offers a mainstream solution that is available to consumers immediately, and which will continue to expand across the Ford/Lincoln/Mercury lineup within the next year. "EcoBoost puts an affordable technology within reach for millions of customers," says Derrick Kuzak, Ford's Group Vice President of Global Product Development. (Let's all give a round of sincere applause here!)
Methods in development by other manufacturers require the creation of an entirely new fuel delivery infrastructure (Hydrogen fuel cells), are perceived as environmentally unfriendly and questionable in realistic production (battery-operated electric plug-ins), are too regional to make a difference nationwide (E85 Flex-Fuel capable powerplants), or simply require an expensive cost of entry at the time of purchase (hybrid motors). Ecoboost technology aims to avoid these difficulties by offering an efficient powerplant that promises to break even against the increased entry cost in a shorter amount of time than other options, while also allowing its users to maintain their current driving and fueling methods. It creates a situation where everybody wins.
How does it work? The EcoBoost engine carefully times delivery of precise doses of gasoline directly into the cylinder to encourage a more fuel-efficient combustion process with reduced emissions. Turbocharging utilizes additional energy from the exhaust to deliver additional boost to the fuel combustion process. These two technologies combine to offer up to 20 percent improvement in fuel economy, up to 15 percent reduction in C02 emissions, and an increase in performance that makes a V-6 engine feel like a V-8, or a four-cylinder feel like a six.
"EcoBoost is meaningful because it can be applied across a wide variety of engine types in a range of vehicles, from small cars to large trucks - and it's affordable," says Kuzak. "Compared with the current cost of diesel and hybrid technologies, customers in North America can expect to recoup their initial investment in a four-cylinder EcoBoost engine through fuel savings in approximately 30 months. A diesel in North America will take an average of seven and one-half years, while the cost of a hybrid will take nearly 12 years to recoup - given equivalent miles driven per year and fuel costs," he said.
But the EcoBoost system goes beyond "just" the type of engine under the hood. When combined with better tuned multi-speed transmissions, advanced electric power steering, weight reductions within the construction of the vehicles themselves, and additional aerodynamic improvements, Ford believes EcoBoost can be the cornerstone to delivering an entire selection of affordable, sustainable, quality vehicles that customers want and value.
Placing the first iterations of this engine into large, luxurious vehicles like the 2009 Lincoln MKS allows Ford to create an immediate benefit in a segment that most needs the added efficiency - lots of people want to drive these big, luxurious vehicles and with gas prices being what they are, also want better fuel economy -- but this engine also creates the first step toward reducing the company's overall Corporate Average Fuel Economy numbers. It will follow by introducing this powerplant into the Ford Flex, and other vehicles, promising more than a half-million EcoBoost-powered vehicles on the road annually in North America by 2013. That's a lot of vehicles in a short period of time. And not just big, honking SUVs, but other smaller and sportier cars as well.
I for one am looking forward to seeing it in the Verve -- aka Fiesta -- when that vehicle is offered for sale in the United States. Thanks, Ford, for creating an option for sustainability that makes sense, right now.
By Brandy Schaffels