Ford set its engineers a very difficult task with the 1,0-litre EcoBoost engine. It had to be smooth, powerful and frugal, which turned out to be a nearly impossible task. Luckily, the engineers delivered something beyond expectations.
It’s safe to say that the automotive world has changed a lot over the last 10 years. Back then we were quoting our car’s 0-100km/h time as if it was the be all and end all of automotive ownership, but now we find ourselves doing the same with fuel consumption figures.
There’s a very good reason for this. Customer perceptions have changed, not to mention the ever-escalating price of fuel. In the eye of the customer, frugality is the new performance.
But this doesn’t mean that cars have to be dull. There are ways of making a car as frugal as possible without any loss in performance. It’s not easy, but it is possible.
Ford managed to pull it off with its now famous 1,0-litre EcoBoost engine. This impressive little powerplant is the result of more than five million hours of work by more than 200 engineers and designers from Ford’s research and development centres in Aachen and Merkenich in Germany and Dagenham in the UK.
It wasn’t an easy task that Ford set these designers and engineers. It was in fact one of the biggest challenges the industry had faced. The new EcoBoost engine had to be a radical small-displacement engine with no compromise on refinement, performance or fuel economy.
The result of all this research and development is now well known, but in case you missed the details, here’s the gist of the 1,0-litre Ecoboost three-cylinder petrol engine:
It has a cast iron engine block small enough to fit in the overhead luggage compartment of an aeroplane. The engine features an aluminium cylinder head with an integrated exhaust manifold that lowers exhaust temperatures for an optimised fuel-to-air ration. An innovative flywheel and front pulley design delivers improved refinement compared with traditional three-cylinder engines.
The engine friction is reduced by specially coated pistons, low tension piston rings, low friction crank seals and a cam-belt-in-oil design. A variable displacement oil pump tailors lubrication to demand and optimises oil pressure for improved fuel efficiency.
That’s efficiency taken care of, then. In SA the EcoBoost engine is available in the Fiesta and EcoSport, offering fuel consumption figures previously unheard of in their respective segments. This engine has proved to be such a success that it now accounts for one in five of all Ford cars sold in Ford’s 20 traditional European market. In SA, Ecoboost engines account for 30.4% of all Fiesta sales.
But what about performance? Given the frugal nature of the 1,0-litre engine, you wouldn’t expect much of it, but good performance was part of the brief, after all…
When it comes to this engine, you can have your cake and eat it, too. In the EcoSport, the engine provides 92kW and 170Nm of torque. To put that in perspective, we have to look to the past. Not that long ago that was the kind of power output one could reasonably expect from a 1,8-litre engine. Ford has managed to get the same output from a powertrain with an engine block small enough to fit on a piece of A4 paper.
This is made possible by the engine’s compact, low-inertia turbocharger, which spins at up to 248 000 rpm – more than 4000 times per second and almost twice the maximum rpm of the turbochargers powering 2014 F1 race car engines!
With that in mind, it’s only reasonable to wonder about long-term reliability. Early in 2013, when the 1,0-litre EcoBoost made its SA debut in the Fiesta, the motoring media pondered this very issue. It’s now more than a year and six months later, and we still haven’t heard of any problems. It seems those five million hours were well spent indeed.
All the hours put into this engine have been well rewarded so far. A month ago the 1,0-litre EcoBoost was named the 2014 International Engine of the Year for the third consecutive year. It’s the first engine in the history of the competition to be honoured in this way.
A panel of 82 automotive journalists from 35 countries also named it the “Best Engine Under 1.0-litre” for the third year in a row at the Engine Expo 2014 in Stuttgart.
“To deliver the complete package of eye-popping fuel economy, surprising performance, quietness and refinement, we knew this little engine would have to be a game changer,” said Bob Fascetti, vice president, Ford Powertrain Engineering. “Through our One Ford approach to development, EcoBoost continues to set the benchmark for power combined with fuel efficiency from a small petrol engine.”
The engine has now won 13 major awards. In addition to collecting seven International Engine of the Year awards in three years – including Best New Engine in 2012 – the 1,0-litre EcoBoost also has been awarded the International Paul Pietsch Award 2013 for technological innovation in Germany; the Dewar Trophy from the Royal Automobile Club in the UK; and in the US, the Breakthrough Award from Popular Mechanics magazine. Ford is also the first manufacturer to win a Ward’s 10 Best Engines trophy for a three-cylinder engine.
It’s safe to say that Ford is now at the forefront of small-displacement petrol engine design. The 1,0-litre engine may be small, but it packs a mighty punch.