By Jim Kerr

Photo Gallery:
2008 Lincoln MKS

Since 1975, CAFE – Corporate Average Fuel Economy – has had a huge impact on the auto industry. In response to fuel shortages in the early 1970’s, the U.S. Government introduced new regulations that specified average fuel economy standards. Currently, those standards are set at 27.5 miles per gallon (US) for passenger cars and 22.2 m.p.g. for light duty trucks. If a manufacturer fails to meet those averages for all the vehicles they produce for the U.S. market for the year, then they must pay a penalty. That penalty is $5.50 per 0.1 mpg under the standard. Some European manufacturers have had to pay millions in penalties, while North American manufacturers have so far been able to meet standards. That may be about to change.

A new bill has recently been passed in the U.S. The Energy Independence Act raises the required fuel efficiency level to 35 m.p.g. (6.72 L/100 km) by 2020, up from the current 27.5 m.p.g., and we will see the resulting changes to vehicles in Canada. Traditionally, manufacturers have met the regulations by producing smaller and lighter vehicles. That’s one reason why cars in Europe are so small – they get great fuel economy.

According to Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche, there are other ways to meet the standards. “We have to adhere to CAFE” and “Diesel is a means to get there.” Other manufacturers obviously agree, with many introducing new diesel engines for the North American market. At the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Takeo Fukui, President and CEO Honda Motor Co., Ltd announced that Acura will introduce the new i-DTEC clean diesel engine to the North American market in 2009.

Other technologies such as hybrid and electric vehicles will undoubtedly have their place in the mix, but even with advanced technologies, gasoline powered vehicles will still be the majority on the road. Gasoline direct injection appears to be one of the new technologies that will help meet those standards.

Gasoline direct injection has been around for many years but not in North America because it didn’t meet our emission standards. Now, faster computers, more precise control programming and integration with other technologies such as turbocharging has enabled this fuel system design to meet North American emission standards.
Regular fuel injection sprays the fuel into the intake manifold, where it sits for a fraction of a second until the intake valve opens and the air/fuel mixture is drawn into the engine cylinder. Direct injection sprays the fuel directly into the cylinder, similar to current diesel engine injection systems, but on the gasoline engines, the fuel is still ignited with a spark plug. Several manufacturers including Lexus, General Motors, Audi, Porsche and Mazda have already introduced Gasoline Direct Injection. Now Ford has announced that they are introducing gasoline direct injection and will have half a million vehicles on the road with this technology by 2013. Ford calls their system EcoBoost.

EcoBoost uses turbocharging combined with direct fuel injection to increase fuel economy by 20 to 30 per cent, reduce CO2 emissions by 15 per cent and increase engine power too. Turbocharging is an integral part of the EcoBoost design, as it creates turbulence in the cylinders for better atomization and combustion of the fuel. Direct injection helps to reduce turbocharger lag, so performance is more responsive. These two technologies complement each other.

Lincoln MKS
Lincoln MKS. Click image to enlarge

To be introduced first on the 2009 Lincoln MKS, EcoBoost will be used on a wide range of vehicles, from small cars to large trucks. The 2009 Lincoln MKS will have a 340-horsepower twin turbocharged 3.5-litre V6 engine with the power and torque of a V8 engine but with the fuel efficiency of a V6. Other vehicles will get four-cylinder engines with the power of a V6. Ford refers to it as “getting more with less” – the economy of a small engine with the power of a bigger one.

“EcoBoost is meaningful because it can be applied across a wide variety of engine types in a range of vehicles, from small cars to large trucks – and it’s affordable,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president of Global Product Development. The cost of adding the technology on a four-cylinder engine will be paid back in fuel savings in approximately 30 months. This is compared to the payback time of 7 ½ years for the cost of diesels and nearly 12 years to recoup the investment in a hybrid vehicle. Kuzak says “We know that what will make the biggest difference is applying the right technology on volume vehicles that customers really want and value and can afford.”

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