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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 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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