Print 88 comment(s) - last by jconan.. on Jan 30 at 1:14 AM

Ford makes big promises for small engines

Auto manufacturers are furiously working up ways to increase the fuel economy of their vehicles without compromising the consumer's current expectations of large, powerful vehicles thanks to new CAFE regulations.

General Motors recently unveiled the 2009 Saturn Vue Green Line with an improved two-mode hybrid system, and still hopes to push out the highly anticipated Chevrolet Volt by 2010. Toyota is merrily improving their popular Prius, while Honda is promising both a hot-hatch revival with the CR-Z concept and the "family diesel" in the 2009 Accord. Ford, on the other hand, is taking an entirely different approach, trying to make the adage "More From Less" apply to high-powered SUVs and sedans.

At the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, Ford was showcased a new family of four and six-cylinder engines, dubbed "EcoBoost" to highlight their improved fuel economy. While the words "new engine technology" were thrown around fairly often to describe the EcoBoost line, the cornerstone technologies behind the engines -- direct injection and turbocharging -- should be immediately familiar to anyone who's followed automotive powertrain development in recent years. As the name suggests, Ford is trying to give small, high-boost engines a market beyond the current demographic of performance junkies -- but they need to get their foot in the door somehow.

The first vehicle to receive an “EcoBoosting” will be the upcoming 2009 Lincoln MKS. Shown in 2007 as the "MKR Concept," the MKS will feature a 3.5L twin-turbo V6 said to produce approximately 340 horsepower, and 340 lb-ft of torque between 2,000 and 5,000 RPM. Those hoping for a four-door, rear-drive performance sedan will be disappointed to discover the transverse mounting of the engine, and the associated choices of FWD or AWD; however, the possibility of such a vehicle hasn't been entirely ruled out.

Returning to the economical side of the impeller, Ford also featured a 2.0L turbo four, claiming an impressive 275hp and 280lb-ft. While such an engine would seem a perfect fit for a sport compact, Ford had bigger ambitions for the "little engine that could" -- announcing that it would be the base engine for the Ford Explorer America concept.

Ford's VP of product development, Derrick Kuzak, had high hopes for the technology, praising its low initial cost in comparison to other engine designs. "Compared with the current cost of diesel and hybrid technologies, customers in North America can expect to recoup their initial investment in a 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine through fuel savings in approximately 30 months." That's not to say that hybrids and diesels will be abandoned -- some light-duty Fords will be receiving these options as well.

Strangely, no mention of an EcoBoost engine was made for the Mustang -- perhaps Ford still has some of the hundreds of thousands of letters they received the last time they suggested a replacement.

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RE: About time...
By Alexstarfire on 1/7/2008 5:26:47 PM , Rating: 4
Of course, they don't put out any numbers at all in these car articles. I've never seen an article that's posted anything about vehicle mileage. It's sad really. How can you tout something that's supposed to be better and you don't even give us estimates? A 20% increase sounds great, but if a 20% increase on 20MPG, that only goes to 24. It's better than nothing, but hell, you can increase your mileage by over 5% by not racing to the red light. Could be even more depending on how you drive.

They also don't tell you how much the car will cost, but tell you that it'll be 30 months to break even? How do they come up with these numbers? Do they look in a crystal ball? If they gave us a number like that then they should be able to tell us all the other numbers, since they'd have to know them to come up with the break-even period.

RE: About time...
By teldar on 1/7/2008 6:02:19 PM , Rating: 3
Actually, I think some of the links provide considerably more information than this story does.
One of them I read says that diesel takes approximately 7.5 years to pay back and hybrid 12 years, of course it's going to depend on driving styles.
My brother's an engineer for a major parts manufacturer, Magna (world wide, not just NA), and he figures this was finally a step in the right direction. He works mostly with Ford and has been really impressed at the efficiency of these engines for their cost as compared to other technologies out there.


RE: About time...
By Alexstarfire on 1/7/2008 7:32:07 PM , Rating: 2
12 years for a hybrid? On what numbers? I can't believe the numbers you're giving me, that's just way too far off. I mean, if they compare the car to something like a Scion, then perhaps, but that's because Scions are cheap and get pretty decent mileage. Many people buy $15k cars or more, just from what I've seen. I got my Prius for $15.5k used, as opposed to new, and I have easily already made my money back, and it's barely been more than a year. I guess it really depends on how much people normally spend, how long they keep their car, how much that specific person spend on their car, the mileage that car gets, and how much they drive per year. I know that I probably spent less on my car than what many people spend on new cars, but I get over 2x the mileage they do.

This "new" technology is better than nothing, but technology can only overcome so much. You can't get cheap, bigger, more powerful, faster, and more fuel efficient all at the same time, at least not forever. We're nearly tapping out all we can from ICEs already. We are eventually going to have to change our habits, or have a major breakthrough in technology.

RE: About time...
By aeroengineer1 on 1/7/2008 9:49:55 PM , Rating: 2
You obviously have not done a side by side comparison of the cost that it will take to run a Hybrid car vs a standard car. There are more things that factor into it than saving gas. Now you have an extra system that costs you money to repair. You must understand that these batteries that are being put into the Hybrids have a certain life. In other words they will need to be replaced. The average life of these batteries is between 7-12 years depending on the battery technology used. Figure at least a few thousand dollars to replace the battery. Now you start to see that it takes a really long time for a Hybrid to make economical sense.

RE: About time...
By Hoser McMoose on 1/7/2008 10:21:30 PM , Rating: 2
12 years for a hybrid? On what numbers?

Numbers might be a few years old, but probably not far off considering an average of 15,000 miles per year split 55/45 city/highway (EPA's "standard" driver). They're probably a bit better today with $3/gallon gasoline (vs. $2 or $2.50/gallon only a few years back) and slightly cheaper hybrids.

For a quick comparison, EPA lists the Honda Civic (1.8L I4, automatic transmission) for 29mpg and $1553/year for gas.

The Honda Civic Hybrid (1.3L I4 + electric motor, CVT transmission), for comparison is rated at 42mpg and $1071/year.

So, total savings for the Hybrid are estimated at $482/year. Now figure that the Hybrid costs about $4000 more than the a similarly equipped standard Civic and your payback time works out to between 8 and 9 years. Even then it's not really a true apples to apples comparison since the Civic has a 140hp engine while the Civic Hybrid has a combined engine power of 110hp. Had the standard Civic used a lower performance (and therefore probably both cheaper and more fuel efficient) engine a payback time of 12 years would not be out of the question.

The Prius is somewhat harder to compare as there is no direct non-hybrid counterpart. However looking at the European Toyota vehicles and comparing a Prius to the Avensis. The results are about the same.

Of course, this is based on the assumption that gas will stay at about $3.00/gallon before inflation.

RE: About time...
By jconan on 1/30/2008 1:14:22 AM , Rating: 2
$3.00 that's cheap. Elsewhere it's like $3.52+/- .15 and that's for premium.

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