ford's 1.0-litre ecoboost technology

technology with a boost


Having spent a year with Ford's innovative 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine in our long term Focus, we were left impressed with the technology it represented. And wondering how it all worked. Steve Ghosley decided to investigate.

Applying basic motoring logic, a 1.0-litre 3-cylinder engine in a family hatch as large as a Ford Focus is not going to offer much of a spirited drive. Yes, it'll be clean and economical - but probably not a lot else. Ford's UK engineers at Dunton and Dagenham however, had other ideas and the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol unit they've designed for a number of the company's compact models has been a revelation in the motor industry.

So how have they done it? Well, their objectives was to create a petrol engine that produced similar power to that of a 1.6-litre diesel yet also delivered class leading fuel economy and very low CO2 emissions. These characteristics are much sought after by the car buying public, especially in Europe where governments are putting increasing pressure on manufacturers to produce cleaner and more efficient powerplants.

With that in mind, a decision was taken to develop a 3-cylinder unit with a 1,000cc displacement. The advantages of this size and configuration of engine are that it is smaller than the traditional 4-cylinder unit and consequently much lighter - some 30 kilos lighter. With fewer moving parts, it is also has less friction to overcome than a 4-cylinder powerplant.

On the debit side however, a 3-cylinder unit is prone to poor refinement as it tends to vibrate around the middle piston which can make for a less than smooth operational performance. In addition, 3-cylinder petrol engines have never been renowned for their power and up until recently, have only been considered for use in small vehicles like microcars and citycars.

Faced with these challenges, the engineers at Dunton and Dagenham set about developing 1.0-litre EcoBoost technology. Ford defines the characteristics of an EcoBoost unit as being turbo-charged with direct fuel injection in the same manner as modern diesel engines. To this, their engineers have added twin camshafts that are independently controlled by the engine management system, making them more responsive and significantly quieter than those of non-EcoBoost powerplants. These twin variable camshafts optimise the combustion process to reduce fuel consumption and boost torque.

"So the technology works, people like it and Ford's UK sales leadership is maintained. Job done. .."

The vibration issue was solved with a bit of 'lateral thinking' by the Ford engineers. The usual solution to a problem of this kind is to install a balancing shaft. This is effective in reducing the vibration but it adds additional weight and increases the friction within the engine - two characteristics that the Ford development team wanted to avoid. Instead, they came up with the clever idea of unbalancing both the fly wheel and pulley wheel to counteract the engine vibration, so eliminating the problem without adding to weight or friction. As a consequence, the 1.0-litre EcoBoost unit is magically smooth throughout the rev range.

This 1.0-litre powerplant also features an innovative cast manifold that is integrated into the cylinder head. This all-aluminium unit is much lighter than traditional constructions and eliminates the need for a gasket. As a consequence, the maintenance requirements are reduced and the longevity of the engine's components is enhanced.

Another innovation of the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine is its internal timing chain which runs in a bath of oil. It is much quieter than the usual external timing belt and is designed to last for a lifetime. Servicing costs are also reduced as the timing chain does not have to be changed periodically.

Most car journeys are less than two miles, making it difficult for engines to reach their optimum operating temperature. To counter this effect, the 1.0-litre EcoBoost unit has been designed to transfer heat more effectively and uses two thermostats to manage the transfer of heat in the most efficient manner for both the engine and the internal heating system.

Currently, there are two 1.0-litre EcoBoost variants, one developing 100PS and the other 125PS. And both in terms of pulling power take the fight directly to the kind of comparable diesel engines that for years have held the edge over petrol power when it comes to torque. For example, within the Focus range, a 100PS 1.0-litre EcoBoost unit compares directly to a 95PS 1.6 TDCi diesel Focus but can better the TDCi's CO2 figure by 10g/km, so will be cheaper to tax as well as running on cheaper fuel. The 67.5mpg combined cycle fuel economy figure even makes this petrol option marginally more economical. The 125PS 1.0-litre EcoBoost model is nearly as frugal, delivering 58.9mpg on the combined cycle and producing 109g/km of CO2.

But the proof is in the day-day-day experience, something we can now look back on at the end of our long term Focus 1.0-litre EcoBoost test. Sure enough, we found this engine miraculously smooth and quiet and appreciated the way it pulled with real vigour from as little as 1400 revs right through to the 6400rpm red line.

Nor, it seems, are we alone in liking this impressive powerplant. Ford's most recent sales suggest that 38 per cent of customers are opting for this engine in the Fiesta, Focus, B-MAX and C-MAX models. Of those that had a test drive in a car with the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine, 60 per cent of customers bought one.

EcoBoost technology is also used in Ford engines of 1.6 and 2.0-litres in size and has been for some years now. In fact, the company has now produced over 2 million EcoBoost models since 2011, with over 100,000 of them currently running in the UK. So the technology works, people like it and Ford's UK sales leadership is maintained. Job done.