Ford's Ethanol Boost Engine Code-Named Bobcat
By: Mike Levine Posted: 09-02-08 02:33 PT
© 2008

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Update #1: 09-02-08 21:31 PT

Ford powertrain spokesperson Alan Hall says Ford hasn't officially confirmed EcoBoost engines will carry a $700 premium, as reported by Automotive News.

Ford's only official comment about ethanol boost technology comes from Dan Kapp, director, Ford powertrain research and advanced engineering. Kapp says, "EBS has the potential to be a technology that could deliver diesel-type performance at a more affordable price."

Ford says its new line of turbocharged EcoBoost direct-injection gasoline engines will deliver up to 20 percent better fuel economy in its cars and trucks than conventional engines, but it isn't expected to stop looking for efficiency gains there.

Industry sources tell that Ford is already developing the next iteration of EcoBoost motors with suppliers under the code name Bobcat.

Bobcat engines will feature ethanol boost technology, developed by Ethanol Boosting Systems, LLC of Cambridge, Mass., that promises 5 to 10 percent greater fuel economy than EcoBoost engines.

Ethanol boosting starts with a small turbocharged engine with separate gasoline and ethanol fuel injectors for each cylinder. The gasoline system mixes fuel and air in the motor's intake manifold using port injection. The second system injects small amounts of ethanol directly into the combustion chamber to control premature detonation, or knock, that results from the high temperature and pressure of a turbocharged engine. The ethanol prevents knock by cooling the air/fuel mixture until the engine is ready for combustion.

According to EBS, so little ethanol is used in the knock suppression process that the ethanol tank would only need to be refilled every few months or so.

While an ethanol-boosted engine's small displacement saves fuel, operating at higher compression ratios is said to enable higher power. A 5.0-liter turbo V-8 with ethanol boost could be rated at 500 horsepower and 700 pounds-feet of torque.

Automotive News reports Ford will charge EcoBoost buyers a premium of approximately $700 when the engines go on sale in 2009, and quotes Ford's advanced engine design manager, Brett Hinds, that most consumers will recoup the extra cost, through improved fuel economy, within two years. EBS says adding ethanol-boost technology to an EcoBoost-style engine would cost about $400 more.

Sources say Ford's expectation is that Bobcat engines, carrying an approximately $1,100 premium, could become viable alternatives to diesel engines in full-size pickups. Diesels offer about the same fuel economy and power ratings promised in ethanol-boosted engines, but diesel hardware costs have soared since new federal emissions regulations were enacted in 2007. Diesel engines can carry up to a $5,000 premium over gasoline engines.

The first Bobcat test engines may be built before the end of the year, but they have not received final approval for production, sources said.

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