Smallest Ford Engine Ever! Three-Cylinder EcoBoost (and Two New Transmissions)

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We’ve got details on the smallest engine Ford has ever built, a new 1.0-liter EcoBoost™ three-cylinder. It’s not just efficient; it’s super efficient. Seriously – that displacement is the same as a cruiser motorcycle’s! Now, this engine wasn’t designed in response to current fuel prices, mind you; Ford has been aggressively creating a range of fuel-efficient powertrains as part of its mission to strengthen its array of fuel-efficient vehicles. How’s that working out so far? Ford currently has 12 vehicles that lead their sales segments in fuel economy and four vehicles that deliver at least 40 mpg, something no other automaker can match.

And Ford bested itself here, too, having never before built a regular production car engine with fewer than four cylinders. The story behind the new EcoBoost 1.0-liter began at the Ford Dunton Technical Centre in the U.K., which is the Ford epicenter for small-capacity engines. The goal here was to design a technically advanced three-cylinder that would deliver the same performance as a four-cylinder but with higher fuel economy and lower emissions. Talk about setting the bar high.

So, the Dunton engineers got to work, focusing on improving thermal efficiency and reducing friction of the engine’s internal moving parts, particularly during warm-up. That’s when an engine emits higher levels of CO2 and other pollutants. Advanced technology includes a Ford-designed split cooling system that allows the cylinder block to warm up before the cylinder head; faster cylinder block warm-ups save fuel (especially in cold weather). Also, an exhaust manifold has been cast into the cylinder head. The one-piece assembly lowers the temperature of the exhaust gases, enabling the engine to run in a wider rpm band with the optimum fuel-to-air ratio, not to mention it saves weight and allows the engine to operate more smoothly.

And EcoBoost technologies also make an appearance, such as turbocharging, direct injection and twin independent variable camshaft timing.

“No one’s ever built a three-cylinder engine quite like this. Not only is it one of the most technically advanced and efficient engines we’ve ever designed, but it will introduce a number of new technologies to the Ford engine lineup,” said Joe Bakaj, Ford Vice President of Global Powertrain Engineering.

You sharp-eyed readers might recognize the engine from the Ford Start concept car that debuted at Beijing in 2010, and more recently had its European debut in the Ford B-MAX at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.

Ford is on track to deliver on its promise in 2006 of offering EcoBoost on 90 percent of its North American lineup by 2013 and to be producing 1.5 million EcoBoost engines globally. The next vehicles to get EcoBoost engines, the Edge and Explorer, arrive late this summer.

But wait, there’s more new news: As with the 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine, advanced technology will be a key feature of a Ford-designed, Ford-engineered and Ford-built eight-speed automatic transmission currently under development. It will utilize Ford next-generation clutch controls; an input torque sensor, which measures torque coming into the transmission and enables faster selection of the proper gear, thereby reducing hunting and helping smooth out shifts; and actuators built into the case for tighter, more precise control of hydraulic pressure.

Another new Ford transmission, to be installed in hybrid vehicles, starts production late this year at Van Dyke Transmission Plant in suburban Detroit. Full volume production is slated for the first quarter of 2012. It’s an e-CVT, or electronic continuously variable transmission, and will offer improved performance over the current unit. The current Ford Fusion Hybrid can reach a top speed of 47 mph on electricity and go as far as one mile. By next spring, Ford expects to be manufacturing more hybrid transmissions in North America than any other automaker or supplier. The new transmission replaces a unit currently made in Japan that is used today in Ford and Lincoln hybrids.

“In the last five years, we have made a record investment in new powertrains and fuel-saving technologies,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford Group Vice President of Global Product Development. “Today, we have the freshest powertrain lineup in the industry. And there is plenty more coming.”

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