Ford's EcoBoost tech busts into showrooms

With all the hype around hybrids and electric vehicles, Ford is introducing 2010 models equipped with the linchpin of its fuel efficiency strategy--the EcoBoost engine.

The cornerstone of Ford's sustainability strategy--a more efficient engine design called EcoBoost--will be available for the first time in the coming weeks.

The EcoBoost technology combines direct fuel injection and a turbo charger to improve the fuel efficiency of comparable cars between 10 percent and 20 percent. Ford decided that it's the cheapest route to improved mileage, noting that consumers will recoup the additional cost of the EcoBoost option in two years.

The elements of Ford's EcoBoost technology are already built into vehicles from other manufacturers. What's significant about Ford's plans is that it plans to make it available on half of a million vehicles by 2013, making it an option on 90 percent of its car models by then.

"EcoBoost kept rising to the top as the most effective way to get fuel economy improvements over competing options such as hybridization and diesels," said Dan Kapp, director of advanced power trains at Ford. "It very quickly went from an effective performance improvement option on big vehicles to something to build our strategy around ."

In its first incarnations, EcoBoost will be offered with high-end versions of Ford's midsize sedans and crossover SUVs. Over the coming months, the technology will be including the 2010 Lincoln MKS, Lincoln MKT, Taurus SHO, and Flex.

Rather than get a V8 engine with the "performance" models, consumers will get a six-cylinder engine with the EcoBoost, which improves performance as well as fuel economy, said Kapp. For example, Ford will offer a six-cylinder F-150 pickup with EcoBoost in 2010 as an alternative to a V8 model.

Over time, the engine will be fitted into smaller cars. Instead of a V6 engine, the high-end model of sedans will have a four-cylinder engine with EcoBoost. "It's an enabler to downsize our engines," Kapp said. The carbon dioxide emissions from EcoBoost engines are 15 percent lower than comparable engines, according to Ford.

Ford is still developing alternative power train technologies, including diesels and hybrid cars. It recently released a hybrid version of the Ford Fusion sedan and has plans to introduce both plug-in electric hybrids and all-electric vehicles in the next two years.

But in the short term, EcoBoost is more attractive as the smaller engine that EcoBoost allows offsets the added cost, Kapp said. Meanwhile, hybrids cars have a longer payback, on the order of 8 to 10 years depending on gasoline prices, he added.

In the coming years, Ford also envisions combining EcoBoost with hybrids although there would need to be significant modifications to get more than incremental improvements, he said.

 

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