Lewis Booth, the top executive in Europe for Ford, has forecast a revival of petrol engine development but backs a range of other new technologies as well. Rob Golding listened to the plans.
“At Ford we see considerable growth potential for small diesel engines still. We have three to launch in the next few years with CO2 improvements of 5 – 10%.
“But the challenge for diesel remains how to control tail-pipe emissions without ever-more expensive after-treatments which would erode affordability. A failure to solve this challenge will lead to a decline in diesel market share.”
Ford believes that bio fuel will be drawn into conventional car engines and delivered through the existing infrastructure of pumped fuel. It was not only Mr Diesel who lit up his motor with a veggie brew; Henry Ford’s Model T was designed to run on ethanol from crop waste.
Bio fuel is not the complete answer to C02 reduction however. Booth calculates that there is not enough agricultural capacity in the world to have both cars and people using crops as fuel. What Ford has decided to do therefore is to have a model in every car line that is a FFV – a flexi-fuel vehicle, and wait around until the fuel companies can provide it in commercial quantities.
Ford and the fuel companies believe that they can reduce a 140g/km car to be a 120g/km car by using a low-carbon ethanol as a vehicle fuel. Booth is less than impressed though with the fuel companies’ efforts on producing the stuff: “We need the fuel industry to step up to the plate and implement what is already targeted in the EU’s Bio-Fuels Directive. This could deliver 20g/km on current vehicle technology.”
He doesn’t expect to do much business with hybrids. They are expensive to build, expensive to buy and are not suited to all driving conditions. Diesels in Europe will never be far away from the CO2 performance of a hybrid. Booth said that it only made sense for him to build a hybrid with one of the new high performance gasoline engines or the new generation diesels which will be ready beyond that.
Plug-in hybrids make little sense at the moment, he reckons. They need to do forty miles without a charge to be serviceable in everyday use. The Ford Edge with the HySeries Drive Concept can use a hydrogen fuel cell. But the battery storage systems are not yet economically viable – too expensive to build and lacking the minimum viable range.
“But we are serious about maintaining our lead in hydrogen internal combustion engines and we have only scratched the surface in what we can achieve.”
Two other Ford initiatives will be to continue with weight reduction – more aluminium bodies for the premium cars, and more new automatic transmissions with 10% fuel savings. In addition, they will have settings which will allow drivers to select the most fuel-efficient mode.
Booth wants some collaboration with governments in Europe so that there is less local legislation which distorts the new car market. In particular he derided Swedish, Greek and Irish measures which gave tax breaks to hybrid cars which deliver CO2 performances worse than conventional cars.
“We need policy-makers who focus on the outcome, not the technical solution.”
This article is the second in a two-parter based on remarks made by Lewis Booth at Automotive News Europe’s Powertrain Conference recently held in Amsterdam. Part 1, FEATURE: Ford brings back the petrol engine, was published yesterday.