Recently, Ford Global Vice President of Powertrain Engineering Joe Bakaj shared his thoughts about the progress of Ford’s powertrain efforts in 2012 as well as an update on the new award-winning 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine in an interview with @Ford Online.
Below are excerpts from that discussion.
Q. In 2010, Ford promised 60 new or significantly updated global powertrains by 2013. Does this mean that the company’s investment in new engines, transmissions and fuel-saving technologies will taper off?
A. I don’t think it is going to taper off. The reason is that we’ve recently seen some fairly aggressive fuel-economy standards coming out in all regions of the world. In the U.S. for instance, we’ve seen the one national standard legislation being passed at 54.5 mpg by 2025.What that’s going to mean is that we’re going to have to accelerate our fuel- efficiency measures. We’re planning to do that in a way that doesn’t spend any more money, and the reason we’re able to do that is because of our investment in efficiency work. We’ve invested in flexible engine production facilities. We’ve done a lot of work on bill of process as well as bill of design so we’re planning to spend the same, but get a lot more out for that cost.
Q. 2012 was an incredible year for Ford powertrains – two 10-best engine awards, a bunch of honors for the new 1.0-liter EcoBoost, including International Engine of the Year, etc. Has the reality of how advanced and efficient Ford’s powertrains are aligned with the perceptions of consumers and media?
A. We’ve made a lot of progress in the U.S. in terms of perception being aligned with reality and we see that through various surveys that are carried out on Ford brand reputation as well as looking at surveys such as J.D. Power, etc. However, when we look at the same data in Europe for instance we still see quite a large lag between perception and reality. So the U.S. is doing well, but in other regions of the world we still have to do more work to catch up.
Q. Do you think most people understand the benefits of EcoBoost?
A. I think they do. EcoBoost is a great technology with the combination of direct injection and turbocharging and downsizing we’re able to achieve 20 percent better fuel efficiency than an equivalent gasoline engine without EcoBoost technologies. And at the same time, we’re improving the performance feel and we’re improving the torque of the vehicle.
Q. The new 1.0-liter engine debuts a number of technologies new to Ford that help reduce emissions and save fuel. Does the 1.0-liter technology offer a look at the DNA of future Ford engines?
A. The 1.0-liter engine is our latest EcoBoost engine and that engine incorporates all of our best know-how in terms of engine technology. As we move forward and continue to work on EcoBoost, we’re going to take all of those technologies and build them into the next engine. But the 1.0-liter is not the end of the road. We need to continue to improve at a rate around about 4 percent a year. In order to do that, we’re going to have to work on even more technologies and leverage those across all of our engines.
Q. How do you think the 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine is doing in the marketplace?
A. We’ve had a tremendous launch of the engine. Since the first quarter of this year when we launched the engine in Europe, we’ve picked up four international awards for the engine. The most prestigious being the Engine of the Year award where 76 journalists from 15 36 different countries voted our 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine as the best engine for 2012. But it’s not just the journalists that are enthused about this engine. If you look at the sales figures in Europe in the Ford Focus we’re seeing that 30 percent of the customers are coming in and ordering the 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine. And this is a European market that’s pretty diesel-oriented so that’s a great result for the engine and it’s off to a fantastic start.
Q. A few of our competitors will be launching passenger car diesels this year. Some of our customers have been asking when we will be offering a diesel option in a passenger car in North America. Is the 1.0-liter EcoBoost our diesel-fighter?
A. I think you could say that the 1.0-liter EcoBoost is a very good alternative to a diesel. We are seeing some activity of competitors launching diesels into some passenger vehicles in the U.S., but from what we’re seeing those vehicles aren’t achieving particularly good gas mileage. I think that’s driven by the emissions regulations here in the U.S., making it very difficult to take a European-developed diesel, plug it into a U.S. vehicle and meet those regulations. What we’re actually seeing is what I would call some upsizing on those diesels.
Typically a C-car or B-car diesel in Europe will run with a 1.6-liter diesel engine. What we’re seeing from those competitors that are bringing diesels into the U.S. is that they are actually upsizing to 2.0-liters and they’re doing that in order to be able to meet the Knox NOX emissions regulations in the U.S. That of course is giving them a fuel-economy penalty. When we compare the gas mileage they’re achieving we should be able to at least achieve that same level with the 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine.
Q. What’s your biggest challenge heading into 2013?
A. Our biggest challenge heading into 2013 is continuing on the fuel efficiency glide path that we know we need to meet in order to meet the legislations all around the world as well as also maintaining our leadership strategy on fuel economy, which requires us to put even more focus on picking the right technologies– picking those technologies with the best value and then migrating those technologies very quickly across our high-volume vehicle lines.
Q. As the head of Ford powertrain efforts you have the opportunity to drive all of Ford global vehicles with all of the company’s powertrains, including the diesel engines which we don’t get here in the U.S. Which powertrain is your favorite and why?
A. That’s a very difficult question to answer because we’ve have so many great powertrains on the market today, but I’d have to say at this point in time my favorite is the new C-MAX Hybrid. The reason I like that vehicle so much and that powertrain so much is the seamless transition between the electric driving mode and the gasoline driving mode. Our engineers have really done a fantastic job. If you haven’t driven that vehicle yet, you really have to get into it to understand.