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A Review of Ford’s Infamous EcoBoost Engines

2011 - Ford - F150 - RED

You will find the EcoBoost engines unique to Ford in a lot of their vehicles. Cars and trucks alike from NH Ford dealers all the way to California Ford dealers proudly boast these engines. The EcoBoost engines are considered to be one of Ford’s greatest advancements in the auto industry, and have captured the interest of many consumers over the years. The EcoBoost engine got its start by being paired with Ford’s F-150 truck in 2011, and has since then become a huge success.

This engine also marked the first time a major auto company utilized a turbocharged engine in such a strategic, and highly effective way.

A Brief History

The EcoBoost technology was Ford’s answer to the problem of rising gas prices and the CAFE laws dictating that automakers need to produce greater fuel efficiency every year. They decided to draw on “Direct Fuel Injection” which was invented by Jonas Hesselman in 1925. Ford refined his invention and combined it with their own technology, giving us the EcoBoost engine which combines power, fuel economy, and reduces harmful emissions.

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EcoBoost engine combats rising gas prices.

Doing this was a leap of faith for Ford, praying consumers would catch them instead of letting them fall. Consumers generally don’t like their favorite vehicles being tampered with, and don’t like when changes are made they don’t ask for. But Ford figured no consumer liked driving a car that is all MPG and powered by chipmunks instead of horses.

In 2011 the Ford EcoBoost engine was put into the flagship of Ford’s truck fleet: the F-150. This became the most significant powertrain overhaul of the trucks history. The first engine introduced was a 3.5-liter V6, which was built in Brook Park, Ohio at the Cleveland engine Plant No. 1.

The Torture Test

The EcoBoost was a great concept for consumers, but surely the extensive testing that Ford did on the engines had to help their selling point. Since it was a new system, it needed to be tested and applied to real world expectations and warranty history of previous engines in the F-150s. The EcoBoost validation consisted of 1.5-million hours of computer analysis, 13,000 hours of engine dyno testing; 5,000 of those hours being at max power and 2,500 at 5000+ RPMs. 100,000 hours of vehicle testing was also logged by tests that pushed these engines harder than any customer could ever push them.

With the assurance of quality, the leap of faith Ford took paid off. Consumers flocked to the new engine that officially combined power and fuel efficiency. By the end of the first year introducing EcoBoost technology, they had produced over 128,000 vehicles equipped with EcoBoost engines. By 2012, they had nine EcoBoost models available, and 2014 marked the year 90% of Ford vehicles would have EcoBoost engines.

EcoBoost engines are still going strong in 2015, and should be in 2016 as well.

What Are They?

For simplicity’s sake, an EcoBoost engine is a combination of turbocharging, direct fuel injection, and variable valve timing. In turn, this combination improves fuel economy and reduces C02 emissions without sacrificing power.

EcoBoost Logo

The Eco

The Eco mainly comes from the fuel injection portion of the engine. More specifically, the direct injection. The overall process of fuel injection being the way fuel is sent into the engine for combustion. A direct injection engine is a variant of this traditional process. Generally, fuel injection uses a step known as the intake tract in order to provide fuel to the engine. Direct injection eliminates this extra step, and allows for a less complicated fuel injection process.

This method of directly injecting fuel into the engine greatly improves fuel efficiency.

The Boost

The turbocharging is where the EcoBoost engines get their “boost,” and rightfully so. The way a turbocharged engine works is a simple but effective concept: the engine uses a device that forces in more air than a traditional engine would. The increase in air ends up generating more fuel, therefore creating more power.

This device that forces the air into the engine is called a turbocharger, the overall process sometimes described as a “boost.” Hence the word “boost” in the EcoBoost name.

The variable valve timing also contributes to the boost, and reduction of Co2 emissions. In a conventional engine, the intake and exhaust valves operate in opposition. This ensures that new fuel will not mix with the exhaust gas, which is expelled from the output port. The exhaust gas contains unburnt fuel, creating a waste of resources and a harmful emission.

This is where variable valve timing comes in. In an engine with VVT, the intake and exhaust valves are adjusted to remain open for a fraction of a second. The overlap this causes will now mix the new fuel with some of the exhaust. Because the exhaust contains that unburnt fuel, the engine will provide greater torque output and create less tailpipe emissions. 15 percent lower CO2 emissions, to be precise. 

The turbocharger adds power in a way that doesn’t hurt the gas mileage, contributing to the Eco in the name as well. Which is the key difference between the turbocharged engine and an enlarged engine. Simply enlarging the engine increases power that requires more fuel, thus hurting gas mileage.

Just How Efficient are we Talking?

The 2011 F-150 outfitted with the 3.5-liter V6 saw a significant increase in fuel economy. The 3.5-liter V6 was able to put out 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, 90 percent of that torque provided between 1,700 and 5,000 RPMs. This enabled the 2011 F-150 to gain up to 20 percent greater fuel-efficiency than the 2010 model. Quite an impressive leap for a single model year.

The EcoBoost engine was successfully able to add power and increase acceleration, all while being considerate to the gas mileage and production of harmful emissions.

Packing a Bigger Punch

The EcoBoosted F-150 also saw a noticeable increase in horsepower. The 2010 F-150 model with a 5.4-liter 3-Valve V8 FFV engine got 320 horsepower with 390 pound-feet of torque. For 2010, that was the strongest engine Ford offered in their F-150 lineup. The 4.6-liter 2-Valve V8 was the standard powertrain, and offered 248 horsepower with 294 pound-feet of torque. The EcoBoost power combined with the 3.6-liter V6 allowed a smaller engine to trump both of the 2010’s bigger engines in both horsepower and torque.

Combine this with the 15 percent emission reduction, it is no wonder this engine became such a revolutionary and popular engine.

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2015 F-150 with EcoBoost Engine

Since the 2011 institution of the EcoBoost engine, Ford has been able to change the face of the automobile industry. Even today, the EcoBoost engines are still going strong and trumping conventional engines in power, fuel economy, and emission reduction. Just last Spring in March, Ford hit a production milestone with the EcoBoost engines. The Ford Focus equipped with its 1.0-liter engine became the 5-millionth EcoBoost equipped vehicle manufactured.

The production of this EcoBoost equipped vehicle also marks the first time customers can choose EcoBoost engines on 100 percent of Ford’s passenger vehicles in the United States. An impressive feat for an automobile company in just 4 years. 

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