Ford of Europe, which was late to market with common-rail diesel, is nearing the start of production of its first gasoline direct injection engine.
For proponents of gasoline engines, direct injection represents the biggest hope of overturning the current popularity of diesel engines.
Ford engineers showed a 1.8-liter, 130hp Duratec SCi (smart-charge injection) engine at the Vienna International Engine Symposium in mid-May. The new aluminum engine is derived from the Duratec family of engines used in the Mondeo. The engine will debut later this year in a production Mondeo.
Most engine development in recent years has concentrated on diesels, which have seen big improvements in fuel economy, performance and emission standards. Ford's TDCi common-rail diesel is an example.
Vik Barodia, engine analyst for Global Insight Automotive in London, said diesel has dominated engineering investment plans among manufacturers recently.
"The problem with manufacturers is, where do they spend their resources? Very few have the funds to go out and develop two brand new technologies," he said.
"Every OEM should have GDI on the radar because they're going to need it to meet the CO2 fleet averages that are required" under Euro 4 emission requirements, which go into effect in 2005. A second, more stringent stage takes effect in 2008.
GDI engines have low fuel consumption levels during lean-burn operation, which occurs during idling and moderate acceleration. In a GDI engine, fuel is injected at high pressure directly into the cylinder instead of into an external intake port. Ford hopes to get a fuel economy benefit of 7 to 10 percent with its SCi engine.
There are two main types of direct injection:
1. Wall-guided, with injection ports at the side of the cylinder that use the cylinder wall to direct the fuel spray.
2. Spray-guided, where the fuel is sprayed toward the spark plug from an injector port at the center of the cylinder head.
All GDI systems currently on the market - plus Ford's coming SCi engine - are wall-guided.
Barodia said spray-guided systems, which are the second generation of GDI technology, offer the most hope for realizing fuel economy, emissions and performance benefits.
A promising spray-guided system is being developed jointly by BMW and PSA/Peugeot-Citroen. "I think it will be the one that breaks the mold," Barodia said. But spray-guided systems are not due until around 2006.
Major suppliers of direct injection systems include Robert Bosch and Siemens. Ford uses a Bosch system.
Robert Bosch developed a GDI engine in the 1930s, but Mitsubishi first introduced GDI on a production car in the mid-1990s.