A new generation of fuel-saving, turbocharged petrol direct injection engines to be offered in high volumes on lighter Ford vehicles is the cornerstone of the automaker’s near term ‘sustainability’ plan, president and CEO Alan Mulally said at the Los Angeles show.

The first vehicle will be the Lincoln MKS, launched in LA, and the most powerful and fuel-efficient all-wheel-drive luxury sedan in the market, according to the automaker.

Mulally said mid- and long-term advancements include weight reductions of 250 to 750 pounds, new fuel-saving transmissions, advanced electric power steering, aerodynamic improvements, additional hybrid offerings and diesel engines introduced on light-duty vehicles.

“Aggressive” development would continue on plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell technology for future applications.

A range of global environmental technologies will provide customers more fuel-efficient vehicles that emit fewer greenhouse gases without compromising their expectations for safety, interior room or performance, Mulally said.

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“Ford is committed to offering customers affordable, environmentally friendly technologies in vehicles they really want,” Mulally said.

“We are focusing on sustainable technology solutions that can be used not for hundreds or thousands of cars – but for millions of cars, because that is how Ford can truly make a difference.”

Ford has developed modelling tools to map its future sustainability goals. They are helping the company to determine which technology solutions are viable over time by balancing customer wants, cost and environmental needs. The analysis will guide Ford’s fuel economy plan to the end of 2020.

Some of the improvements to boost fuel economy already are on the road in today’s vehicles.

Examples: the F-250 Super Duty truck has more than 1 mpg better economy by reducing aerodynamic drag and optimising gearing; a new 3.5-litre V6, improved six -speed transmission and aero changes helped the Taurus achieve a 10% highway fuel gain; the redesigned Focus increased 3% thanks to a series of other improvements, which include aero and electrical efficiencies; and, in the 2008 Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner, the addition of electric power assisted steering and improved vehicle aerodynamics contributed to an 8% fuel economy improvement on the petrol and a 14% gain on the hybrid.

In Europe, the introduction of Ford’s dual-clutch PowerShift transmission to the local (newer platform design) Focus two-litre diesel contributed to a 10% fuel-economy gain while new six-speed automatic transmissions, plus other chnages, in the new Mondeo, S-Max and Galaxy in Europe, have delivered a 2 to 3% fuel improvement.

Mulally said the push would continue. The company would quickly introduce technologies to further eliminate energy waste in vehicle systems by improving powertrain warm-up time, using vehicle control technologies like aggressive fuel shutoff during vehicle deceleration, and reducing engine workload through better battery recharging systems.

“While we are implementing our near-, mid- and long-term plans, we are continuing to achieve efficiencies throughout the vehicle in areas that can quickly lead to fuel economy improvements today,” said global product development chief Derrick Kuzak.

“We continue to make improvements in what we call the ‘1%’ areas – items such as reducing wind drag, eliminating engine-driven power steering pumps and switching to low-friction engine oil.  Collectively, these small improvements deliver significant fuel economy gains.”

Ford already has more than 5m flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) on the roads globally and, in the US, has pledged to make half of its production capable of running on alternative fuels by 2012, provided the necessary fuel and infrastructure are in place.

Ford currently offers a total of 14 flexible fuel vehicle models in various markets globally. It also continues to support the development of cellulosic biofuels, which in the long term promise up to 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

In Europe, Ford is a FFV market leader and market pioneer. Focus and C-Max Flexifuel are currently available and, from early 2008, the new Mondeo, the S-Max and the Galaxy will be available in Flexifuel versions.

In Brazil, FFVs account for 72% of Ford’s volume.  The success with FFVs was achieved through a central energy policy and collaboration among agriculture, fuel providers, automakers and the government.

In Asia Pacific, Ford is leading in the introduction of flexible fuel vehicles, particularly in early-adopting markets, such as Thailand and the Philippines.

Ford’s sustainability plan also calls for adding more diesel engines to more products in more markets. By the end of the decade, Ford’s large sport utility vehicles and best-selling F-150 will be available in the US with a new mid-displacement clean diesel engine.

In Europe, Ford soon will begin rolling out its ECOnetic range of ultra- low CO2 models that use affordable, conventional technology to deliver superb CO2 performance and fuel economy. The first vehicle will be a Focus, followed by versions of the Mondeo and redesigned Fiesta replacement in 2008.

In Asia Pacific, Ford recently launched the Focus TDCi diesel in Thailand and the Philippines.

Two new hybrid sedans – the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid – will go into production later in 2008.

Ford also plans to use different levels of ‘hybridisation’ with either diesel or petrol engines – depending on the market and vehicle type.

It also plans aggressive development of breakthrough technologies, such as plug-in hybrid electric and fuel cell vehicles to ramp up to greater volumes once the technology challenges can be overcome.

In December, Ford will deliver the first Ford Escape Hybrid Plug-in to its partner Southern California Edison as part of a partnership to explore the commercialisation of plug-in hybrids and the business models that might make them viable.

It is also working on hydrogen fuel cells and hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engines. A fleet of 30 hydrogen-powered Focus fuel cell vehicles is on the road as part of a worldwide, seven-city programme to conduct real-world testing of fuel cell technology.

Ford also has 24 hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engine shuttle buses in cities across the United States and Canada.