Ford's new green-er engine isn't a hybrid

Posted by: Adam Aston on January 9, 2008

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Kudos for Ford for taking the lead and rolling out a new generation of advanced gasoline engine technology. The move is fresh evidence that Detroit has more mileage boosting tricks up its sleeve than you may have guessed. The Detroit Free Press is reporting that Ford is set to unveil a new internal combustion gasoline engine that takes a big leap forward in gasoline engine efficiency.

It’s not some new advanced hybrid. Rather the engine combines a pair of off-the shelf technologies of the sort long called for by auto experts such as the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Called EcoBoost, Ford’s advancement combines turbo-charging and direct fuel injection technology to achieve up to 20% better mileage. The first model to get the green treatment will be the 2009 Lincoln MKS (photo). In time, the new engine, in four- and six-cylinder variants, will appear in other models and eventually into half a million Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles over the next five years.

The announcement hopefully marks the end of a technological freeze, and the beginning of some substantial mileage gains across all model types. In recent years, Detroit has dug in, arguing that car buyers weren’t willing to pony up for high efficiency engine technologies, even if well proven. Critics such as the UCS, meanwhile, countered that if the carmakers began to introduce the new technologies, the price would fall, mileage would improve, and customers would pay for the improvements. The recent energy bill, which boosts fleet mileage substantially, may have forced Detroit’s hand as well. If automakers don’t start testing out these new tricks now, they may not be able to meet the 35 mpg target by 2020.

Forget hybrids and hydrogen for a minute, the promise of these “here now”, off-the-shelf technologies is tantalizing. Indeed, following the UCS’s recommendations for available and near-term technology — detailed here, click on the link for “Technical Report (pdf)”—carmakers could cut emissions by about 40%, fuel consumption by nearly as much and deliver a safe-as-today vehicle for a lower total lifetime cost (thanks in large part to money saved from fuel). Check out the report for deeper details on UCS’s picks of here-today technologies to boost mileage, ranging from better air conditioning systems to lighter materials. These are summarized in table below, taken from the report.

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BusinessWeek correspondents John Carey and Mark Scott, cover the green scene, keeping on top of the business aspects of energy, the environment and climate change, as well as the technologies, policies, markets and people that are shaping how the earth's resources will be used in the century ahead.

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