Mr Green Car reviews Ford’s EcoBoost engine

Allen PenticoffDSCN3834
Mr. Green Car

My review of the Ford F-150 truck platform boasted much about the benefit in fuel economy of selecting the 2.7 liter “EcoBoost” engine (which may actually have an upcharge cost on some models/trim levels). I also did not mention that the F-150 with EcoBoost also uses “start-stop” technology to further enhance fuel economy.

Ford Motor Company has been using this “EcoBoost” tag for several years to describe their line of small turbocharged engines that eek out a lot of power for the amount of displacement. Here I’ll describe some of the technology that has evolved to make this happen.

Ford is not alone in using turbocharging to have their cake and eat it too. Customers are looking for fuel economy and performance – and turbocharging is the way to get both.

Turbochargers are basically vacuum cleaners on steroids. Using the waste energy of the exhaust system, a compressor sucks in fresh air, compresses it greatly and sends it to the intake system to be burned to gain power.

The main benefit is that when the engine is not under heavy power usage, the benefits of small displacement create greater fuel economy. But when you really put your foot down and need the power, the turbocharger becomes effective and packs more fuel and air into the cylinders, greatly increasing the power.

At the Chicago Auto Show Ford had a new four-cylinder 2.3 liter EcoBoost Mustang engine on display. In the past, a 2.3 liter engine may have produced something like 140 horsepower give or take a bit. But this EcoBoost Mustang engine puts out a very impressive 310 horsepower and an equally impressive 320 foot-pounds of torque. This is big V-8 kind of power and torque in a package that is half the weight and size. Less weight always is an engineering goal to increase efficiency and performance. Such is why the new F-150 lost 700 pounds of weight and gets big motor performance out of using a 2.7 liter engine.

Engineers have had decades of experience fine-tuning the internal combustion engine. Now we have racing technologies in everyday street cars. Dual overhead camshafts with chain drive and variable rate valve timing, high-energy individual coils for each spark plug, all computer controlled for maximum efficiency or power. The twin-scroll turbocharger, along with the lightweight composite intake ducting are designed for smooth easy breathing. A high-pressure fuel pump atomizes the fuel spraying out of the injectors, again creating all the more efficiency and power.

All the parts moving around in an engine create some friction, it takes power to overcome this friction, and in fact much of the fuel consumed is just in making the engine operate, much less getting you to where you are going. To this end, reduced friction gives you more power and efficiency. Ford’s EcoBoost engine uses high strength pistons with low friction skirts. Higher efficiency water pumps reduce friction as well.

While researching the EcoBoost technology I came upon some interesting problems being reported. Apparently the 3.5 liter V-6 EcoBoost engine in model years 2011- 2013 is prone to going into “limp mode” when the engine computer senses there is too much humidity and starts to shut down affected cylinders to protect the catalytic converter. The source of this excess humidity is that the intercooler (an air radiator that cools the air coming from the turbocharger before it enters the engine) is cooling too much and under certain conditions is causing this extreme humidity.

Unfortunately, this seems to happen at the worst time, like while passing, or on a freeway on ramp. The engine will shake, vibrate and lose most of its power when it goes into “limp mode.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigated, and concurred with Ford Motor Company that a deflector added to the intake system prevents the problem in rainy and high humidity conditions. No recall was issued, however, if you own one of these vehicles you should check with your Ford dealer to determine if you need updated hardware.

While a class action lawsuit had been filed against Ford in June 2014 for the affected 3.5 EcoBoost owners – and claimed other EcoBoost owners were affected – an Internet search was not turning up much in the way of recent complaints or actions by Ford to remedy these complaints.

I believe this problem has been resolved. The EcoBoost concept is what we need. Better fuel efficiency while maintaining the performance we need for safe driving. We’ll keep an eye on this development.

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