Special Coverage

SAE World Congress

DETROIT – The new European-market Ford Focus ECOnetic, which the auto maker says can achieve 80 mpg (3.5 L /100 km), doesn’t make sense for North America, despite the rapid rise in gasoline prices, a top engineer says.

The diesel-powered ECOnetic’s eye-popping fuel economy has generated headlines. But Robert Fascetti, director-large gas and diesel engine engineering, says diesels are so complex it would drive up the car’s price too high for North American consumers.

“I think that’s why the only diesels you see here are in very expensive vehicles,” Fascetti tells Ward’s at the 2011 Society of Engineers World Congress.

Another stumbling block is the more stringent nitrogen-oxide emissions standards in North America, he says.

Ford would have to add a diesel oxidation catalyst, particulate filter and a selective catalyst reduction system that includes an injector to dose the diesel fuel with urea, in order for the ECOnetic to meet U.S. requirements.

Because of the high price of fuel in Europe, Europeans are willing to absorb the additional cost of the technology, Fascetti says, noting pump prices would have to rise significantly in North America to make ECOnetic viable.

Until that day arrives, Ford is putting full effort into optimizing its gasoline engines, including the direct-injected turbocharged EcoBoost lineup, Fascetti says.

A number of other Ford gasoline engines are ripe for updates, including the 6.2L V-8 offered in the F-150 and Super-Duty pickups.

Fascetti says the base architecture of the 2-valve SOHC 6.2L is “fairly” new, but admits some of the engine’s technology is not.

“It offers the customer an alternative to a diesel, because to ‘emission-izeʼ a diesel is a much more expensive proposition,” he says. “It provides a good gasoline alternative to our customer in a heavy-duty engine.”

The 6.2L engine is likely to see updates aimed at meeting federal emissions and fuel-economy standards. Although Fascetti is mum on details, he notes it is capable of incorporating a number of advanced technologies, including direct injection and cam phasing.

Regulations call for auto makers to have an average fleet fuel economy of 35.5 mpg (7.9L 100/km) by 2016, a target Fascetti says Ford is on track to meet or exceed.

While critics argue the more stringent regulations will force consumers to buy vehicles they don’t want, he doesn’t see it that way, calling consumer wants and government regulations “synergistic.”

In order to be successful building smaller, fuel-efficient engines in the future, Fascetti says it is imperative Ford vehicles maintain fun to drive attributes. “We still want customers to prefer our powertrains.”

bpope@wardsauto.com