Ford to Launch 1.0-liter EcoBoost Engine and Two New Transmissions

By Charles Krome

I paid a little visit to the Ford Product Development Center this morning, where I joined the automotive elite to hear the Blue Oval’s Derrick Kuzak, group vice president of Global Product Development, and Joe Bakaj, vice president of Global Powertrain Engineering, introduce some key new advances. (In the pictures, Kuzak is the guy with the facial hair; I’m betting everyone will be able to figure out who Bakaj is. And I’ve also tossed up images from some of the slides Ford showed; sorry for the odd perspective, but I was sitting of to the side.)

First up was the latest EcoBoost engine, a 1.0-liter unit with three cylinders destined for all markets. You read that right, Ford is going to bring out a three-cylinder engine, and yes, it will be offered in the automaker’s future U.S. small-car lineup. Leveraging a fresh-sheet design—not a current block re-engineered to have fewer cylinders—the engine is expected to provide “horsepower and torque outputs equivalent to or better than most normally aspirated 1.6-liter [I4] gasoline engines,” while also turning up the same kind of fuel-efficiency gains seen in bigger EcoBoost engines; that is, improvements of about 15 percent compared to the larger engine it replaces, as well as lower emissions.l

There didn’t seem to be any worries about the odd number of cylinders, with Bakaj explaining that the take rate for the V6 EcoBoost in the F-150, which is about 41 percent, proves that U.S. customers no longer worry about how many cylinders or how big an engine is, as long as it delivers the performance they expect. Significantly, Bakaj also told us that Ford engineers were able to eliminate the kind of NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) issues that plague many of these kinds of engines, even without the need for a balance shaft.

Not many other details were available yet, but here are the key features that Ford did pass on:

  • The engine will have an offset crankshaft that provides further efficiency gains.
  • It will boast a unique split cooling system that allows the engine block to heat up before the cylinder head, lowering oil friction at startup to save fuel.
  • The exhaust manifold has been cast right into the cylinder head, saving weight and lowering the temperature of the exhaust gases so the engine can maintain an optimum fuel-to-air ratio across a wider rpm band.
  • All the usual EcoBoost technologies (turbocharging, direct injection, twin independent variable cam timing) will be used.

Also coming from Ford will be a new eight-speed automatic transmission and a new hybrid transmission, both developed entirely in-house. The former gets more leading-edge tech from the company, like an input torque sensor that measures the torque coming from the transmission to help the unit select the appropriate gear quicker and more smoothly, while the big deal about the latter is that it will be built here in the U.S. near Detroit. The current Aisin transmission used in the Blue Oval’s current hybrid lineup is sourced from Japan.

Finally, after the presentation, when the crowd descended on Kuzak for questions, I was able to wedge my way in and ask him if we’d ever see a day when Ford took the best of both worlds and used an EcoBoost engine in a hybrid powertrain—and he did let on that that was something Ford is currently looking into.

U.S. production of Ford’s new hybrid transmission is slated to begin late this year, but timing was more vague about the other new products. However, based on some of the official Ford talking points—e.g., the company says that, from a starting point in 2009, it will have introduced 60 new powertrains in just five years—it seems pretty obvious that the 1.0-liter EcoBoost and eight-speed automatic will come to market by 2013.

And I’m thinking that, in this case, “13” will be a very lucky number for both Ford and its customers.

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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