Ford of Europe's Powertrain Engineering executive director Graham Hoare recently discussed the organization and its plans to increase engine fuel economy while simultaneously reducing emissions especially CO2. The department is working, for example, to consolidate various disparate departments more centrally, especially in the area of Dunton, England. Hoare states it's a constant challenge to develop more eco-friendly and fuel efficient powertrains and went on to discuss development of Flex-Fuel vehicles with petroleum company BP and more turbochargers and direct injection for petrol (gasoline) powered vehicles. While he acknowledges the potential of hybrid vehicles, he doesn't see their success as much in Europe until they're incorporated with diesels engines.

Full press release can be found after the jump.

[Source: Ford via PRdomain] BRENTWOOD, Essex, July 28, 2006 - With a constant pressure to achieve sustainability, reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and improve fuel economy, engine manufacturers are operating in a difficult environment.

Ford of Europe's Powertrain Engineering operation is changing to meet these challenges and executive director, Graham Hoare, is confident his organisation has what it takes.

Tell us about the new integrated Powertrain Engineering organization.
We've chosen to bring all elements of Powertrain Engineering development together. This will eliminate the boundaries between our organisations, helping us deliver a complete package for our customers and the vehicle teams. This will not only help us become more efficient, but also puts us in a good position to tackle some of the challenges that exist today. We're trying to grow the powertrain focus at Dunton and make it the European centre of excellence for powertrains. We plan to locate more engineers here so that we are able to tackle all programmes here at Dunton.

What are the main challenges that you face?
Demands are increasing -- sustainability, CO2 reduction and fuel economy, as well as managing quality improvements. Our key challenge is to integrate all of these topics into a single agenda, a clear consistent strategy that really tackles these issues and hits the mark in terms of functionality for our consumers. We also face the need for significant innovation and technology in each of our powertrains in the future. We need to off-set some of this technology advancement by reducing the complexity of our engine and transmission combinations. This will make the plan more deliverable and will improve efficiency at the same time.

Sustainability is driving business decisions -- how does it affect your organisation?
Sustainability is important to us all in Ford, and to the general public as a whole. We've spent a lot of time within Ford of Europe looking at how we can improve the environmental performance of our vehicles and we have a very aggressive plan to evolve both our diesel and petrol engines, as well as our transmissions, over the next four to five years, to be significantly more CO2-friendly and fuel economical.

What do you see as the future for automatic transmissions?
Automatic transmissions have traditionally had quite a low take rate in Europe -- around 10 to 14 percent of the market. However, transmissions are changing considerably and over the next three or four years some new transmission concepts will offer great driveability combined with wonderful fuel economy, equivalent to that of manuals. We're keen to exploit this and are planning projects for the future that will fully utilise these new automatic transmission technologies.

How important are our partnerships with PSA and Mazda?
We have a number of strategic partnerships and these are crucial to the long term well-being of powertrain within Ford of Europe. The PSA partnership provides around 50 percent of the diesel engines that we put into our Ford products in Europe, while the venture with Mazda supplies about 15 percent of our petrol engines. These partnerships allow us to deliver more product for our customers than going alone. We are always looking into ways to further enhance our relationships and to develop technologies that can be applied together in order to reduce cost and time to market.

The I6 and Lion V8 have recently been launched. What other plans are in place to support PAG?
PAG is one of our key customers within Ford of Europe. They have exacting technical standards and demand. We constantly push the performance envelope of our products. We also work now with our Ford partners in North America and in the Asia Pacific regions. So the powertrain business in Europe is very much delivering on a global scale.

What is the future for Flexible Fuel Vehicles?
Flexible fuels are very important to the sustainability picture, and as we approach the end of the decade we will see much more use of sustainable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. We have a strong intent to drive more and more product towards renewable sources. We have a great advantage in our partnership with BP, with the ability to develop the fuel and the technology to use the fuel concurrently.

Do you see an increase in diesel engine technology being applied to petrol engines and do you see a swing back to petrol in the future?
With the pressures of sustainability upon us, we are going to see both the diesel engine and the petrol engine fighting for airtime. The diesel engine has challenges ahead as the next wave of emissions certification requirements arrive, but I think it is up to the task. However, the petrol engine will also be able to compete. We are going to see petrol engines with turbochargers and direct injection, and they will start to get the same CO2 levels as a comparable diesel engine.

What is our medium-term strategy on hybrids?
Hybrids have been an interesting phenomenon, both in Japan and in North America, and we've seen some great success with the Hybrid Escape. It's something that really adds to our sustainability strategy as part of a series of actions on all different types of powertrain. I think in Europe we will firstly see mild hybrids -- technologies that complement existing petrol and diesel engines. So stop-start systems will become more common. In the longer term, I think hybrids will come to the European market, but I think they really need to be based on diesel engines if they are going to be successful.

Facing these new challenges, are you confident about the future?
I have a great team that work with me in the powertrain organisation and I have had the pleasure of joining a great leadership team within Ford of Europe. So I think we absolutely have the right people to make the changes happen and I am very optimistic for the future.

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