Detroit Automakers Invest in Energy-Efficient Engines
March 3, 2010
The three major Detroit-based automakers—Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation (GM), and Chrysler—recently announced significant investments or changes as they move towards more efficient engines and vehicles. With an eye towards reducing fuel consumption and emissions, the companies are retooling some factories and redesigning vehicle powertrains.
General Motors is investing in new technology to build highly efficient engines such as this Ecotec 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine.
GM announced on February 18 a $494 million outlay at three U.S. plants to produce the next-generation Ecotec engine. GM Ecotec engines rely on direct injection, variable valve timing, and turbocharging to draw more power out of a smaller engine. Focusing on state-of-the-art four-cylinder engines, the automaker will add capacity at its plant in Tonawanda, New York, allowing it to produce 370,000 engines per year. Two other GM factories, located in Defiance, Ohio, and Bay City, Michigan, will also get upgrades to produce the blocks and connecting rods for the engine. GM will release specific details about the engine capabilities and product applications in the future. See the GM press release.
Meanwhile, Ford reported on February 26 that it was spending $155 million at its Cleveland operations to build a new fuel-efficient V-6 engine for the 2011 Mustang. Ford's investment at the Cleveland Engine Plant is supported by DOE's Advanced Technology Manufacturing Incentives Program. The new Mustang engine is one of nine new or upgraded engines or transmissions for Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles to be released in the 2011 model year. The latest investment brings Ford's total investment in powertrain engineering and facility upgrades in North America to $1.8 billion for the 2011 vehicle launches alone, with more to come. This year's revamped engines and transmissions are part of a five-year effort, which began in 2008, to overhaul all of Ford's powertrains. One of its most advanced new engines will be a new normally aspirated 2.0-liter direct-fuel-injection engine, the first of its kind for a North American Ford vehicle, which will be deployed in the 2012 Ford Focus. See the Ford press releases on the engine investment and the 2012 Ford Focus.
Chrysler is also revamping its powertrain lineup, implementing new technology that will contribute to an overall fuel-efficiency improvement of more than 25% by 2014. As a result of its new alliance with Fiat, the company's five-year business plan has added a powertrain offensive, including a progressive vehicle electrification strategy. The overhaul will include adopting Fiat technology such as Multiair, Fiat's patented electro-hydraulic variable valve actuation technology. Fiat will also add its direct-injection, turbocharging, and six-speed transmission systems to Chrysler's portfolio. Four-cylinder engine options are being expanded at Chrysler with the introduction of Fiat's 1.4-liter and 2.4-liter four-cylinder engines, both featuring Multiair. As part of its five-year plan, the Chrysler Group is currently developing a hybrid version of its Ram 1500 pickup for 2010. The company also continues its plan with the DOE to build a small test fleet of plug-in hybrid Ram 1500s and minivans. See the Chrysler press release.