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Ford's green-car strategy hinges on smaller engines, turbocharging

Tue, 21 Jul 2009 00:00:00 -0700

Ford Motor Co. plans to use electric powertrains and smaller engines to improve fuel economy while offering a full range of vehicles.

The challenge for Ford is to meet new CAFE regulations and sell pickups, SUVs, crossovers and cars. The federal government will require a fleet average of 35.5 mpg in the 2016 model year, up from an industry average of 25.3 mpg today.

Here's a summary of Ford's powertrain strategy through the 2012 model year.

Electric vehicles, hybrids: Ford says it will introduce an electric Transit Connect commercial van in 2010, an electric Focus the next year and a plug-in hybrid and the next generation of full hybrid models in 2012. For now, these are low-volume vehicles.

The electric Transit Connect van can travel 100 miles on a charge, Ford says.

The automaker also plans to offer an electric or hybrid model on its next-generation global mid-sized vehicle platform. The model or models have not been announced. That platform will be used for such vehicles as the 2013 Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKS sedans.

For the 2010 model year, Ford added full hybrids for the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans, joining the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrid crossovers. Additional hybrid models will be offered.

A full hybrid can be driven short distances by the electric motor. The gasoline engine turns on after a certain percentage of the battery's charge is used or when the vehicle reaches a certain speed.

The plug-in hybrid is expected to be a version of the Escape. Ford is testing plug-in versions of the crossover in utility and government fleets. A plug-in hybrid can charge its battery from the power grid, reducing the need for gasoline.

EcoBoost: The Ford technology combines direct fuel injection and turbocharging for four- and six-cylinder engines. Ford says EcoBoost will increase fuel economy up to 20 percent and will be available in 90 percent of Ford's models by 2013.

Ford mainly will replace V8 engines with V6s, V6s with four-cylinder engines, and large-displacement four-cylinders with small-displacement four-cylinders.

Ford's 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 debuts in the 2010 Ford Flex crossover and Taurus SHO sedan and 2010 Lincoln MKS and the MKT crossover. In 2010, the company will launch that technology in the Ford F-150 pickup.

Ford's first EcoBoost four-cylinder will go on sale in 2010. Although Ford has not identified the vehicles, the Fusion and the next-generation Explorer SUV are likely candidates.

Four-cylinder engines: As it pursues its strategy of smaller engines, Ford will offer more four-cylinder gasoline engines, including some with smaller displacements. The company says that by 2013, it intends to double its four-cylinder engine volume and offer a four-cylinder option for every car and crossover. Ford product chief Derrick Kuzak has said a four-cylinder has potential even in the F-150 truck.

V-8 engines: Eight-cylinder engines largely will be limited to large trucks and specialty cars such as the Mustang. Ford is expected to introduce a new 5.0-liter V8 for the Mustang next year.

Long term, the V8 may be reserved for high-end--meaning expensive--performance Mustangs such as the Shelby version.

Ford's EcoBoost V6s are so powerful, they undermine the case for V8s. For example, one version of Ford's new twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 produces 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque, outstripping the 2010 Mustang GT's 315-hp, 4.6-liter V8 with 325 pounds-feet of torque.

The 5.0-liter V8 could migrate to truck nameplates. Ford also is expected to add a new 6.2-liter V8 to the F-series Super Duty.

Diesel engines: To improve the fuel economy of its North American cars and crossovers, Ford has diesel engines developed in Europe available. For now, those engines remain on the shelf because of their higher cost compared with gasoline engines.

By Amy Wilson- Automotive News