DETROIT - Big changes are coming to Ford Motor Co.'s powertrain family.
An expected overhaul of corporate average fuel economy regulations likely will require automakers to boost vehicle fuel economy and cut emissions.
Ford's solution includes diesel engines; hybrids; a combination of gasoline-direct injection and turbocharging; cylinder deactivation; and more efficient transmissions.
Here's a look at Ford's technologies and the timetable for production:
Diesels: Ford wants to be the first U.S. automaker to offer a diesel engine in a light-duty pickup. A 4.4-liter V-8 derived from a Europe-market Range Rover will be available for the F-150 in 2010. The Expedition also is expected to offer the engine.
Ford is developing a 6.7-liter diesel to replace the 6.4-liter International Truck engine now offered in F-series Super Duty pickups. The Ford engine, code-named Scorpion, could be ready for the 2011 model year.
Because of high costs, Ford is unlikely to offer its European four-cylinder or V-6 diesel engines in its North American cars in the next few years.
Hybrids: Ford plans to double its hybrid offerings to four models. The Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan cars will join the hybrid Escape and Mercury Mariner crossovers. The Fusion and Milan hybrids are expected to go into production late in 2008.
Ford also is working on a less expensive, less complex mild hybrid powertrain that uses a belt-alternator starter system similar to the unit in GM's 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line crossover. A mild hybrid turns off the gasoline engine when the vehicle is not moving, as happens at a stoplight. The engine quickly restarts when the driver releases the brake pedal.
Ford also plans a plug-in Escape hybrid powered by lithium ion batteries. Though Ford has not confirmed production plans, test vehicles are on the road. Both the mild hybrid and the plug-in system could be ready for sale within three years.
Advanced gasoline engines: Small, powerful and fuel efficient is the mantra for Ford's powerplant engineers. Ford plans to make Twin Force the brand name for its fuel efficient, high-performance engines.
Twin Force powerplants will have a combination of gasoline direct-injection and turbocharging systems. Ford will use Twin Force technology on four-, six- and possibly eight-cylinder engines.
Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president for global product development, said the technology will deliver diesel-like fuel economy without the cost and complexity of a diesel engine. Diesels generally offer 25 to 30 percent better fuel economy than similar-sized gasoline engines.
The first vehicle to use the new technology is the 2009 Lincoln MKS sedan. Sometime after introduction, the MKS will offer an optional 3.5 V-6 with twin turbochargers and direct injection. Performance is promised to rival that of a V-8 engine.
Ford will give its V-8 engines a 4 to 6 percent fuel economy boost by adopting cylinder deactivation. Ford should have its cylinder cutoff system ready for truck production by the 2010 model year.
Ford also is developing 5.8-liter and 6.2-liter gasoline V-8s for its pickups, big SUVs and Mustang sports coupe. The name of the program has changed from Hurricane to Boss.
It is not clear when the first Boss engine will arrive in a production vehicle. The next-generation F-150 won't have a Boss engine when it launches in 2008. The Boss will be added in 2009 or 2010.
Fuel cells: Ford has been making quiet strides with fuel cell technology. This year, engineers have been testing a Ford Edge that uses a fuel cell to generate electricity. That electricity powers a motor and recharges the vehicle's battery pack. Such a powertrain could see limited production in less than a decade.
Transmissions: Ford and General Motors could get a lot closer. The automakers have co-developed a six-speed automatic for front-drive cars. Now Ford is interested in using GM's Two Mode hybrid transmission, which debuts on the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUVs.
Kuzak said Ford has been talking to GM about buying a version of the Two Mode for use in rear-drive trucks. No deals have been announced. GM is anxious to sell the transmission to other automakers to increase production and lower costs.
GM also has a fwd version of the Two Mode slated for production next year in the Saturn Vue. That gearbox could replace the one in the current versions of the Escape and Mariner hybrids and be used in the upcoming Fusion and Milan. The GM transmission probably would cost less than the hybrid transmission Ford imports from Japan from Aisin AW and would offer better fuel economy.
But Ford plans to go its own way on another technology: dual clutch manual transmissions. Ford is working with Germany's Getrag Corp. to bring the fuel-saving gearbox to North America around 2010.
A dual clutch manual gearbox shifts electrically without interrupting power to the rear wheels. A 6 to 10 percent fuel economy saving over automatics is expected. Ford calls the technology Power Shift. Versions would be used in compact and mid-sized cars.
Suppliers say Ford is developing a six-speed automatic transmission for Super Duty pickups.
You may e-mail Richard Truett at [email protected]