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EcoBoost: Power Packed. How Ford engineers harnessed EcoBoost technology to rewrite the rule book for powertrain design
by Adam Bluestein


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Breaking the Mold Ford shows its commitment to innovation throughout our vehicle lineup – in outstanding fuel economy, head-turning style and customer-focused technology.

Imagine braving 60-mph winds inside a room the size of a racquetball
court—with whiteout snow conditions that mirror the most severe blizzards in
northern Minnesota and Canada’s Northwest Territories.

That’s what Ford technicians put the new 2.0-liter EcoBoost®
engine through to ensure that it won’t let down a driver in the dire
circumstances Mother Nature can muster up. “We want to help ensure that the
engine won’t shut down and literally leave our customers out in the cold,” says
EcoBoost engine systems supervisor Dan Badger.

It takes an engine with real power to survive and thrive in this kind of
environmental adversity. But what’s the economic cost to the customer? Well, the
good news is...the answer is virtually no cost at all. Thanks to the efforts of
the small army of Ford engineers, drivers who opt for a smaller, more
fuel-efficient engine in a 2012 Explorer, Edge or Focus can expect nothing but
upside in terms of vehicle performance—and fuel economy.


The new engine builds on the success of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine,
which is already available in the Flex, F-150 and Taurus. By employing the same
core technologies—turbocharging, direct fuel injection and twin independent
variable cam timing—it delivers big-time power and the fuel economy of a smaller
engine.


Starting with the first prototype, dynamometer testing, Ford engineers put
the new engine through simulations of the most punishing driving conditions
imaginable, pushing speed and distance to levels that are rare in regular driver
use. In extreme thermal-cycling tests, for example, each engine runs for
hundreds of hours—constantly cycling between 240°F and –20°F, using a massive
frosted metal cube to chill the scorching engine. Based on the initial trial
results, adjustments are made and components refashioned as necessary before another round of tests is run on the engine alone. When the final engine
assembly is complete, full-vehicle prototypes are built and testing continues to
fine-tune the fit of the engine to the total system.


The specs on the new 2.0-liter EcoBoost speak for themselves. The 4-cylinder
in the Explorer comes in 42 pounds lighter than the V-6, increases fuel
efficiency by about 3 mpg* and, with 240 horsepower and 270 foot-pounds of
torque, actually exceeds the torque of the larger engine. But specs tell only
part of the story. “The best thing is delivering the vehicle and seeing people
drive it,” says Scott Makowski, the Ford engineering manager responsible for the
program. “They’re shocked. They anticipate turbo lag and an underpowered
vehicle. They can’t believe it’s a 4-cylinder. This feels like a V-6.”


But shrinking that system from a V-6 to a 4-cylinder and then optimizing it
for such a diverse range of vehicles not only presented engineers with the kind
of challenge they thrive on but also laid the foundation for a program that will
practically transform the entire line of Ford vehicles.





The Engine Systems team had to focus on making components work together
seamlessly, testing how any changes affected performance in each vehicle. “Our
goal was to minimize complexity to deliver a common power pack across numerous
vehicles,” Makowski says.


“These are different systems and weights,” adds Badger. “Part of the job is
getting the right match of turbo and engine size and deciding where to target
peak torque and peak power, to arrive at the balance of attributes that we want
to deliver to customers for the best experience possible when they hear the
engine and step on the throttle.”


The level of the engine’s responsiveness was one of the key concerns for a
vehicle intended to meet the performance needs of both city drivers and soccer
moms. “While a turbocharged engine is great when it kicks into gear, you can
have a response lag, which is annoying in a car that you’re driving around
town,” says Makowski. “There’s no lag time now.”


Another issue of concern was cost. While turbocharging—harnessing energy from
the vehicle exhaust to boost airflow to the engine—is a proven technology for
securing more power, “a turbocharged, or ‘boosted,’ engine is more expensive
than a normally aspirated engine,” Badger explains. “Other carmakers have
offered boosted technology for only niche performance applications. We chose to
provide it to the masses.”


In a win-win for Ford engineers—and, ultimately, drivers—many of the key
design innovations solved both functional and financial challenges.
Reconfiguring the pipes that funnel exhaust to the turbine made it possible to
shrink the turbine housing, and in turn, eliminate a lot of heavy and expensive
stainless steel and replace it with aluminum.


“Beyond being lighter and less expensive, the EcoBoost is more durable and
responsive at extreme temperatures,” Badger says. “Aluminum also provides faster
turbine spool-up times that improve the vehicle’s acceleration from a dead
stop.”


The engineering team’s work was aided by state-of-the-art computer design
tools. “Ten years ago we simply didn’t have the kind of technical tools that we
are able to utilize today,” says Makowski. “Advances in computers and processors
mean that we’re testing things virtually that we never could try in the past. We
do a huge amount of computer-aided engineering analysis—putting an engine
through its paces even before committing to hardware.”


Makowski credits the ability to build and test “virtual” engines with
revolutionizing the entire design process. “The analytical work virtually
eliminates any catastrophic events at the prototype stage,” he says—but that
doesn’t mean it has replaced stringent physical testing.


Ford plans to continue its aggressive rollout of EcoBoost technology, by
making it available in 90% of its North American vehicles by 2013. The shift to
lower-displacement engines will also soon include a 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder
configuration in smaller cars as well as other additional options between the
2.0-liter and 3.5-liter engines. This gets engineers like Makowski excited by
the broad, transformative scope of the EcoBoost project.


“We’re not just spending time working on cost reductions—this cutting-edge
testing is letting our engineers loose and allowing us to use new tools with an
opportunity to make huge advancements that will benefit our customers,” he says.
“I’ve been in the industry 23 years. It’s rare that you get an opportunity to
make a quantum leap.”


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