Ford’s Patent Boost
Ford is driving forward with its EcoBoost engine technology in a big way. It has the 3.5-liter model that is used in its Taurus and Flex vehicles, which provides the sort of performance that one would get from a naturally aspirated V8. That engine will be joined by a 2.0-liter I4, to replace naturally aspirated V6s, and a 1.6-liter I4, to replace larger naturally aspirated I4s. (In case you’re wondering about the repetitiveness of “naturally aspirated,” it should be pointed out that the EcoBoost engines are turbocharged and have direct injection of fuel to the tops of the pistons in the cylinders.)
This is a global undertaking, but it is worth noting that by 2013 the company plans to sell 1.3-million units with EcoBoosts under the hoods, of which 750,000 will be in North America.
So, how tricky was it to develop? Well, for the 3.5-liter EcoBoost Ford says there were 125 patents and patent applications involved. A large portion have to do with the tools created to develop the engine control module. As Brett Hinds, Ford Advanced Engine Design and Development manager (pictured), put it, “The secret to Ford’s EcoBoost system isn’t just the hardware—the key is in the Ford control system. Our engineers have the right ‘recipes’ to integrate the various systems like engine, transmission and fuel management, resulting in a seamless, exhilarating driving experience.”
According to Ford engineers, a big challenge in developing the EcoBoost was related to controlling emissions during cold start. This required extensive computer modeling of the injection strategy. Injection into a turbocharged engine is all the trickier in that intake air can blow the fuel particles toward the cylinder wall. Using computational fluid dynamics they created the right strategies. The engineers made extensive use of Matlab software during this phase. After running iterations in simulation, they deployed a single cylinder “optical” engine, which permitted them to actually see via video precisely what was occurring in the combustion chamber.
According to Dan Kapp, head of Ford Powertrain Research and Advanced Engineering, they are working on the second-generation combustion system for the 3.5-liter EcoBoost, which will be available in the Ford F-150, and on a third-gen system, which will be launched in a couple years.