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04/02/2012 03:03 PM     print story email story  

Ford Vastly Expands Engineering Team, Focuses on Advanced Vehicles

SustainableBusiness.com News

Ford Motor is converting a 285,000 square foot space in its one of its largest research and development labs for engineers working on efficient engines, hybrids and electric cars.

Its engineering team working on advanced technologies has grown to over 1000 people, double that of five years ago.  

The "Sustainable Mobility Technologies team" has engineers from backgrounds such as aerospace, rockets, missiles, satellites and unmanned aircraft, and even one person who helped develop Intel's Pentium processors.

The new jobs at its Dearborn, Michigan Advanced Engineering Center are part of Ford's plans to add more than 12,000 hourly and salaried jobs by 2015 in the US. 

This year, Ford will offer nine vehicles reaching 40 mpg or more. Its EcoBoost engines -  which raise fuel economy by about 20%- will be in 11 vehicles this year, including the Ford Escape and Fusion. 

Interestingly, Ford is offering Start-Stop technology for the Fusion as a Premium add-on for $295. That technology comes  standard in hybrids like the Toyota Prius or Honda Civic and is expected to be in all new cars by 2020.

Stop-Start systems eliminate idling. When you put your foot on the brake to stop a car, the system turns the engine off. When your foot touches the accelerator, the engine starts again. This simple technology reduces gas consumption by 10% in average city/highway driving to almost 20% in congested city traffic.

A study by the US Department of the Treasury estimates that congestion consumed an extra 1.9 billion gallons of fuel in 2011, about 5% of all gasoline used. Several cities, such as Denver and Ann Arbor, are considering ordinances that would ban excessive idling, which also contributes to smog.

Other efficient technologies that are in Ford's cars:

  • EcoBoost engines get the same performance using smaller engines through a combination of turbocharging, direct injection and twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT) 
  • Electric power steering eliminates the engine-driven hydraulic pump, lines and fluid.
  • Six-speed transmissions enable engines to run more efficiently by always selecting the best gear for top fuel economy.

This fall, the 2013 Ford Fusion goes on sale rated at 37 mpg on the highway; the 2013 Fusion Hybrid with 47 mpg and the 2013 Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, rated at 100 MPG equivalent. 

It's also taking orders for the Focus Electric, and showcased its first intelligent vehicle last year. Ford says 25% of its global fleet will be electric by 2020.

When it comes to hybrids, however, automakers are still emphasizing electronic gadgets, premiums like leather seats, and muscle power more than in making large gains in mileage and emissions reduction, according to the Union of Concerned Scientist's Hybrid Scorecard.

Automakers are benefiting from the highest sales in four years, mostly from strong sales of efficient cars, because of high gas prices.



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