EcoBoost, DCTs, and stop-start for the masses

  • 10-May-2010 10:05 EDT
Barb Samardzich speaking at this year's SAE World Congress.

Barb Samardzich conveys an easy, matter-of-fact enthusiasm about her company’s plans for developing cleaner, more fuel-efficient power from conventional technologies. She likes to emphasize it is all about numbers.

“To make a difference it can’t be 1000 units, it can’t be 10,000 units. It has to be millions of units and it has to have a global reach,” Samardzich, Ford's Vice President of Powertrain Engineering, explained.

“It has to be applicable all over the planet. Otherwise you have not made a difference to your customers or your environment.”

And by the numbers, Ford's strategy to increase penetration of its EcoBoost turbocharged direct-injected gasoline engines appears likely to make a difference. By 2014 (the company's near-term planning horizon) almost 100% of Ford nameplates will have an EcoBoost engine in at least part of its lineup, Samardzich noted.

By first quarter 2011 a total of nine nameplates will feature EcoBoost, including the C-Max in Europe with a 1.6-L Sigma inline four-cylinder; the new compact unibody Explorer in North America, powered by a 2.0L Duratec; and the F-150 with a 3.5-L EcoBoost V6.

In 2008, Ford had no EcoBoost engines. By 2014 the company will have over 1.5 million across the globe, at least 750,000 in North America alone, Samardzich reported. 

The move to widespread boosting does not mean Ford plans to phase out naturally aspirated engines. Nor are V8s in danger of extinction, she confirmed. Truck customers, especially those buying Super Duty work trucks in the over 8500-lb (3855-kg) GVW class, still need the low-rpm torque these engines deliver. 

“Performance customers such as our Mustang owner still appreciate them as well,” she added.

Ford is steadily deploying other proven technologies to improve fuel economy, such as twin-independent variable cam timing (Ti-VCT). Ti-VCT varies the phase of the intake and exhaust cams independently using electronic solenoids. This alone can produce a 4.5% fuel economy improvement over non-VCT-equipped engines and offers emission-control benefits when used with EcoBoost.

Samardzich predicts almost all of Ford's vehicle nameplates powered by gasoline engines will feature Ti-VCT by 2014.

DCTs and stop-start

Other key technologies in Ford's 2014 fuel-efficiency plans are the increased penetration of dual-clutch six-speed automatic transmissions and stop-start systems to reduce engine idling.

“I am personally quite excited about stop-start," Samardzich said. "It is rolling out right now on manual transmissions in Europe.” She explained that the technology is easier to implement on a manual gearbox, and its ability to engage the driver is a key factor in its favor.

“It is a tangible signal to a customer that he or she is saving fuel. When that engine stops, you know you are saving fuel,” she said. Ford is expecting at least 50% of its nameplates will be equipped with stop-start by 2014.

Six-speed automatic transmissions are becoming universal in the industry, and Samardzich is bullish on dual-clutch (DCT) types, which Ford has branded Powershift. She noted the company currently offers two designs—a wet-clutch DCT in the European Focus and a dry-clutch derivative co-developed with Getrag and soon to be available in the 2011 North American Fiesta. 

DCTs will provide a 7-9% fuel economy improvement over previous planetary 4-speed automatic, with greater durability. But engineering Ford's dry-clutch DCT had its own learning curve, according to Samardzich.

“The transmission engineers used to complain about all that hydraulic fluid until we took it away," she said. "Then they realized how much they used it for cooling or for damping out vibrations.”

Notable by their absence in Ford’s future plans are continuously variable transmissions (CVTs). Ford's brief attempt at CVT production in the U.S. was not a success, and Samardzich confirmed that while CVTs have fewer parts than conventional geared transmissions, they are not necessarily less expensive to manufacture. Nor do CVTs offer significant performance advantages.

“We were not seeing the kind of benefit from the fuel economy that you would want," she said. "That was our experience, though there is a wide proliferation of CVTs [in other OEMs.]”

Getting the mass out

Ford engineered weight out of its powertrains for 2011, with an eye toward further mass reductions in the future. The new in-house-developed 6.7-L Power Stroke turbocharged diesel V8 used in the Super Duty trucks saves 160 lb (72.5 kg) compared with the 6.4-L Navistar-built V8 it replaces. The weight loss came primarily from using a compacted graphite iron (CGI) cylinder block.

The aluminum block on the 3.7-L gasoline V6 that powers the 2011 Mustang saved 41 lb (18.6 kg) vs. the cast-iron block on the old 4.0-L V6. Another significant powertrain weight save—102 lb (46 kg)—will be realized in the hot new 5.4-L V8 that powers the 2011 Mustang GT. Its aluminum block features sprayed-on ferrous-alloy liners.

Just as overweight components impede future powertrain efficiency, so does an overly complex powertrain lineup. According to Samardzich, the total number of Ford’s engine architectures will decrease from 28 in 2008 to 20 in 2013. Transmission architectures will drop from 43 to 26 in the same period, a reduction of almost 40%.

Increased capacity utilization and scale reduce both manufacturing and engineering costs, and fewer architectures help boost reliability as well. Ford increased its volume utilizations from the low 70s to high 90s in just five years.

“The real challenge [in reducing the number of architectures] is honing in and optimizing how far you can stretch a platform, or stretch an architecture, and not compromise either ends or the middle,” explained Samardzich.

“How far can you stretch an engine both up and down in size? Can you take it from 1.0 L all the way to 2.2 L? That is the challenge,” she said.

Plenty of conventional, internal-combustion engine work is planned at Ford through 2014 and beyond. Increasing electrification of vehicles is not going to change that, nor does Samardzich expect a drop in fuel prices over the long term, either.

Other engineering changes require more development, such as accommodating biofuels (especially ethanol) in the EcoBoost engines, to name one example.

“I like to tell my engineers who work in gas and diesels: they will be employed for a very, very long time,” Samardzich quipped.

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