Brrrrrr! Imagine your job as a Ford engineer is to test vehicles and powertrains for durability and endurance. Wait – did we mention that you’re responsible for doing so in extreme temperatures and that might mean hanging out in a test room at the Ford Dearborn Proving Ground where temps can dip as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit?
This kind of cold work includes putting the hotly popular EcoBoost® engine through the paces. “Customers buying the 2.0-liter I-4 EcoBoost will expect torque of a V-6 with the economy of a smaller, more efficient engine,” explained Dan Badger, Ford Powertrain Integration Supervisor. “Our testing helps ensure that they won’t see a noticeable difference in performance in even the coldest weather.” It also means Ford engines and transmissions are designed to withstand years of wear and a wide range of operating temperatures typical of freezing winter mornings and cook-an-egg-on-the-ground summer afternoons.
Want the scoop on secret testing? One is called “Deep Thermal Shock”; an engine is cooled to -22 degrees for fifteen minutes, then started and idled for one minute. It is then accelerated to horsepower peak speed for 14 minutes so the manifold heats to the point of glowing cherry red. The engine is then shut off and cooled back down to -22 degrees. This cycle is repeated for 100 to 200 hours.
And more secrets: “We test in Bemidji, Minnesota, or Yellowknife in the Canadian Northwest Territories, where it’s painfully cold. You take a glove off and in five seconds you can’t feel your fingers,” Dan explained. “Testing in extreme conditions helps the calibration team answer vital questions such as, ‘Are we getting the cold start times correct? Is the throttle body icing? Are we going through blizzards and seeing snow ingestion that we didn’t get in wind tunnel testing?’ We want protect customers in a worse-case scenario and deliver the best experience possible when they step on the accelerator pedal.”
Another example of advanced technology that is ready to take on the thermostat is the Focus Electric. Extreme temperatures can affect battery performance and reduce the range of electric vehicles. The range will not be impacted as much with a liquid-heated system compared to an air system. The Ford active liquid-cooling and heating system regulates the temperature of the lithium-ion battery packs, which are designed to operate under a range of ambient conditions. The battery is able to provide additional power and longer range, and is preconditioned after charging, in all cold temperatures. “A liquid-heated battery can accept a charge faster from the regenerative braking that recaptures kinetic energy and sends it back to the battery, essentially providing longer range for the customer in real world cold weather conditions,” said Sherif Marakby, Ford Director of Electrification Programs and Engineering. “Additionally, since acceleration in an electric vehicle comes from the power available in the battery, the customer will have more power available if the battery is warmer.”
“The 2.0L EcoBoost was previously tested in Europe when it was launched in the Mondeo. They had initial feedback and we made design changes to the throttle body,” Dan noted. “We had a lot of learning by the time we got to the Explorer and the Edge testing here. The One Ford philosophy really promotes continuous improvement. Our team here applied what was learned in Europe to our new products, then turned around and shared what we learned. And it keeps going.”