Automotive Engineering: Proliferating electrification and performance

Ford Vice President of Powertrain Engineering and WCX17 General Chair Bob Fascetti oversees one of the industry’s most diverse propulsion-technology portfolios. He shared some thoughts with Automotive Engineering ahead of his April 6 WCX Leadership Summit panel, “How, What and if You Will Drive in the Next Decade.” The panel also includes propulsion-engineering chiefs of FCA (Bob Lee), Lucid Motors (David Moseley), General Motors (Dan Nicholson), and global industry analyst Marc Winterhoff of Roland Berger.

Ford set an SAE record this year in publishing more than 200 SAE Technical Papers. How did you inspire the team to achieve this milestone while simultaneously raising the quality of the documents?

We really challenged our engineers this year to make this a part of doing business. The SAE papers we’re publishing really tell the story of how Ford is both a consumer-based company and a technology-based company. WCX is going to be a big part of that. Publishing the tech papers also allows our engineers to come down to WCX and participate in the dialogue.

If you take our company’s technology focus—such as electrification, connected car, vehicle autonomy, powertrain—and you combine that with a real priority to get out there and tell our story, it equals an opportunity that’s rich with value for the engineering community at WCX.

Is the EPA’s recent decision to reopen the Mid-Term Review of 2022-25 fuel economy standards a good thing, in your view?

At Ford, we’re simply committed to improving our products’ fuel economy. We have to do that across the globe, regardless whether they relax standards here. That’s one reason we’re adding 13 new electrified vehicles to our lineup by 2020. We think that’s important. So from my standpoint, we just need to continue to provide value and get the latest technology that improves fuel economy and performance out there.

Do you have concerns for vehicle affordability? Nobody walks into a new-car showroom and says, “Give me the one with the cooled EGR system and the gasoline particulate filter”—technologies that add cost but aren’t saleable features.

And all those things are good for the environment. We remain committed to year-over-year improvements, which ensure that we compete favorably in the industry. The emissions requirements continue to progress across the globe, not just in the U.S., and we’re committed to leading on those fronts.

How do the ride sharing, connected car, and autonomous trends impact future powertrain strategies?

You’ll see an evolution of what we have to do in these areas. We’re currently a leader in full-hybrid technology, and you’ll see a proliferation of those, followed by plug-in hybrids. Then after those, you’ll see the same with electric vehicles. The good thing about plug-ins and full hybrids is they require an internal-combustion engine to make them work. The technology ‘revolution’ in powertrain allows us to transition from traditional to fully electric.

What does the next decade promise for Ford Performance, the ‘sub brand’ that brings so much enthusiasm to Ford Motor Co.?

Performance vehicles are a good piece of our business. They represent the ‘art of the possible’ to our customers. We need to continue to provide vehicles that those customers want and value, with increased performance year over year. I think that will continue. And we have to harmonize that value with the regulatory front in making our emissions performance better and better.

What can you report on Ford’s latest Ecoboost play, the new 1.5-L turbocharged three-cylinder with cylinder deactivation unveiled at the Geneva show?

It’s going to be a great engine for us. A real benefit of it being three cylinders is it bodes well to sitting either ‘north-south’ [longitudinally] or ‘east-west’ [transversely] in the vehicle. And I think the displacement is just right for a number of markets. Offering both naturally aspirated and boosted versions will give customers the fuel economy and performance they want and value. And the cylinder deactivation is giving us a measured improvement in fuel economy.

Lindsay Brooke, Editor-in-Chief