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
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.”