Ford EcoBoost ChallengePosted on April 17th, 2014
Automaker invites consumers to sample fuel-efficient cars
By Nina Russin
Two years before gas prices spiked in the summer of 2008, Ford’s newly appointed CEO, Alan Mulally, announced plans to shift the company’s focus from big trucks to small cars. At the time, it was a bold move. Not only was Mulally ahead of the curve; he was battling a record-breaking drop in sales.
Mulally has the type of vision few men do; it had made him a success at Boeing, and enabled him to bring Ford back to profitability within three years. Under his leadership, the former Michigan truck plant became an assembly facility for small cars. Ford led the way in eco-driving education programs throughout the United States, and developed a group of relevant technologies called EcoBoost, intended to enhance the fuel efficiency of traditional gasoline engines.
EcoBoost isn’t a magic bullet. Rather, it’s a series of enhancements that together make what is an inherently inefficient machine run better. When I attended mechanic’s school in the mid-1980s, we were taught that the internal combustion engine was at best 40 percent efficient.
Although on-board computer controls have raised that number, there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Turbocharging, variable valve timing, active grille shutters and work in the wind tunnel can stretch fuel economy on a traditional gasoline-powered car up to 40 miles-per-gallon on the highway. Back in the era of the mechanical carburetor, such a feat would have been impossible.
In addition, Ford has developed a family of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles including the Fusion midsized sedan, C-Max compact crossover and Escape compact sport-utility vehicle as well as an electric version of the Focus.
In order to familiarize the public with its green car technology, Ford recently launched the EcoBoost challenge: a series of weekend ride-and-drive events throughout the US that give consumers the chance to drive both Fords and competitive products on closed courses.
The program kicked off on April 12 in Phoenix, Arizona- location of Ford’s hot weather proving grounds. It travels to eleven more cities, including Charlotte, Miami, Orlando, Los Angeles, Dallas, Seattle, Houston, Columbus, Chicago, San Francisco and Indianapolis.
At a preview for the Phoenix, Arizona event, members of the media had the opportunity to hop behind the wheel of the Fiesta ST on a timed autocross course, compare the C-Max hybrid with the Toyota Prius v, and test drive EcoBoost versions of the F-150, Fusion and Escape. Journalists also got a sneak peak at the Transit Connect wagon: a European model that enters the US market this year.
Imran Jalal, Ford Escape Brand Manager kicked off the media preview in Phoenix. Consumers who attended the event at the University of Phoenix stadium on Saturday could speak with Ford engineers and product specialists about EcoBoost technology.
Readers interested in attending other EcoBoost Challenge events can register on the program web site.
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