Automakers Revamp Plants to Produce Fuel-efficient Engines

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The 2010 Ford Taurus will be equipped with the EcoBoost engine, which is being produced at Ford's manufacturing plant in Cleveland.

Ford announced last week that it has resumed production at an engine plant in Cleveland for the manufacture of its new fuel-efficient EcoBoost engines.

Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1 has been idled since 2007 as the company invested $55 million in new tooling and equipment to build the EcoBoost engine, a V-6 engine with the power of a larger V-8 engine. The new “flexible” manufacturing line features modern machine tools that can be easily retooled and reprogrammed to manufacture new engines.

Ford is shifting about 250 employees to the production of the new engine, which will be standard on the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO and available for the 2010 Lincoln MKS, Lincoln MKT and Ford Flex. The EcoBoost engine combines twin turbochargers and direct injection of fuel into the engine’s cylinders to produce the power of a traditional V-8 engine from the smaller, more fuel-efficient V-6.

By 2013, the EcoBoost engine will be available for more than 90 percent of Ford’s vehicle lineup in North America.

General Motors (GM) is also planning to produce a new fuel-efficient engine at one of its existing engine plants, the Flint South engine plant in Flint, Mich. GM will begin installing new machinery and equipment at the plant this spring, and is planning to invest $250 million in a flexible manufacturing line that will allow the production of a variety of four-cylinder engines without retooling.

The new manufacturing line will start production of the 1.4-liter, four-cylinder, “Family 0” engine in December 2010, just in time for it to be deployed in the Chevy Volt. The engine will also power the new Chevy Cruze. GM originally planned to build a new manufacturing plant for the engine, but instead chose to save money by using its available floor space at the Flint South plant.

While such flexible manufacturing lines are new to Ford and GM, Honda has been investing in a highly flexible and efficient network of manufacturing plants in North America for the past decade. Honda’s flexible manufacturing system is allowing the company to increase its U.S. production of four-cylinder vehicles this year without making major investments in retooling and without having to idle its production plants. Honda announced the production shifts in October 2008.

Reprinted from EERE Network News, a free newsletter of the U.S. Department of Energy.