Ford of Europe’s Lewis Booth was the lead speaker last week in Amsterdam at the Automotive News Europe conference on future powertrains. Rob Golding was there.
Lewis Booth, the boss of Ford in Europe, sees diesel engine market share in Europe going into reverse as a new generation of small efficient gas engines comes on stream.
He is also lining up with BMW in backing hydrogen as a future fuel of choice. Hybrid electric will always be too expensive for the mass market, and plug-in electrics make little sense while the majority of the electricity comes from fossil-fuel power stations.
But despite having his own calculated hunches, Booth’s big decision is that Ford is going to be present in all the emerging technologies because it has to be.
He scoffed at an independent questionnaire which came up with the result that motorists would willingly tolerate GBP1,000 of extra cost to get a green car with better CO2 performance. And he dismissed the idea that either legislators or carmakers could guide the consumer into a purchase of a car type that was good for the environment.
“Make no mistake. The consumer will choose the technology. And we do not know what he will choose. So we have to try everything.”
It’s a bold decision to make when you are desperately short of cash. Ford is seriously pooped by its legacy costs and its plunging US market share. But Booth is punchy. The tough get going, he reminds us, when the going gets tough.
“Climate change is stimulating one of the most exciting waves of creativity and innovation we’ve seen since the earliest days of our business. This is a major opportunity for companies to seize competitive advantage and there is everything to play for. We at Ford are investing in a range of technologies to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.”
It is rather tiresome for the manufacturers that there is no silver bullet that will meet all the requirements of climate change and suit all customers. Different countries, different climates, different driving conditions, different customer requirements and fuel availability that differs widely means that there have to be several solutions.
“We have to offer a broad portfolio of solutions. This is expensive but unavoidable.”
Booth reckons that nearly all the improvement in CO2 in Europe over the last decade has come from engine technology. He thinks that there is still scope for engine builders to make a better machine, though the work will now be on petrol engines.
Diesel was the focus of attention because it was relatively crude but had the greater potential for higher mileage. But it is inherently more expensive to make than petrol engines and there is therefore scope for petrol engines to be improved with some of the techniques learned by the diesel engineers.
There will be direct high-pressure injection, efficient turbo-charging, sophisticated valve actuation, and stop-start technology – with the restart triggered by the injection of fuel.
They are going to be small and light, have a great rev range, excellent torque and refinement and “are deliverable very shortly.” And they will give 20% improvement in CO2 emission.
He is certain that within five years, 30% of the European market will be taken by the new breed of light gas engines. The other two thirds will be taken by diesel, and existing petrol engines which will provide power for cars at the budget end of the market. Booth did not make a forecast on the split between the latter two categories. We will outline the reasons for that tomorrow.
TOMORROW: Booth’s take on the other powertrain technologies