Ford’s powertrain chief says ever-changing global fuel-economy and emissions regulations have resulted in a shortened lifecycle for the auto maker’s engine lineup.

In the past, Ford would launch an engine “and let it run for 10-12 years,” Joseph Bakaj, vice president-powertrain engineering, tells WardsAuto in a recent interview. “Those days are gone.”

To keep pace with regulations, Bakaj says Ford will have to make modifications to its engine lineup about every three years. But the changes in most cases will be the addition of new technologies to existing engine architectures, not the development of all-new mills.

“What we have is a building-block approach with some cool engine technologies and some add-on technologies for particular markets or segments,” he says.

Bakaj says some of the technologies developed for the 1.0L direct-injected, turbocharged 3-cyl. EcoBoost, the smallest production engine ever offered by Ford, could migrate to other mills.

“One of the technologies is the offset crank, which reduces the side loading on the pistons and reduces friction,” he says. “It’s worth about a 1.0% -1.5% fuel-economy gain with a pretty simple design change.”

Another technology likely to make its way to other Ford engines is the 1.0L’s “split cooling” setup. The system works with the 1.0L’s cast-iron block to reduce fuel consumption by warming the engine more quickly and reducing the amount of energy needed for warm-up by up to 50% compared with aluminum.

While most Ford engines have aluminum blocks, Bakaj says the system has potential beyond the 1.0L.

Split cooling is “a fairly simple design that we’ll be looking to roll out in more of our engines,” he says. “That gains us another generic-design building block we’ll be using more in the future.”

Other technologies that may come into play include low- and high-pressure exhaust gas recirculation, as well as variable valve lift.

“So there’s a whole host of technologies that are coming along,” Bakaj says. “At some point further down the line, we might be looking at homogeneous-charge-compression ignition.”

Updating the engine portfolio at an accelerated rate is no easy task, but it is made easier with high-tech computer modeling, he says.

Also aiding the process is the One Ford plan, which calls for leveraging global resources. Having a number of common engines in global products also streamlines the process.

Bakaj hints that Ford’s diesel engines eventually may be introduced in North America as a vehicle application, but notes conditions have to be right. At this point in time, he’s not sure EcoBoost gas mills aren’t a better alternative to oil-burners.

 “The aftertreatment we’ll be developing for Europe will be more capable of meeting U.S. regulations,” he says. “Because we have shared platforms and vehicles, its makes it very easy then at that point to bring diesels in if the market demand is there.”

bpope@wardsauto.com