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Developing Ford’s EcoBoost Combustion System

Configuration of the 3.5L V6 EcoBoost Combustion System. A 6-hole fuel injector is mounted between intake ports. The spark plug is at the center of the chamber. The piston has a shallow bowl designed to ensure stable combustion during engine cold-start operations. Source: Ford. Click to enlarge.

Ford’s turbocharged, gasoline direct injection EcoBoost engines are targeted to play a significant near-term role in Ford’s efforts to reduce fuel consumption by enabling downsizing. The first application of this technology bundle in a 3.5L V6 engine (the Duratec D35 EcoBoost) delivers up to 12% better fuel economy and 15% lower emissions with comparable torque and power as a 5.4L port fuel injected (PFI) V8 engine. (Earlier post.)

At the recent SAE 2009 World Congress, Ford engineers presented six papers detailing aspects of the EcoBoost technology, including a discussion of the development and optimization of the EcoBoost Combustion System—a key to the performance of the engine.

3.5L V6 EcoBoost combustion system development flow chart. Source: Ford. Click to enlarge.

In developing the system, Ford engineers focused on fundamental physics, with an emphasis including injector spray pattern, piston geometry, intake port design, and innovation of operating strategies. The methodology relied on 3D CFD (computational fluid dynamics) modeling, together with experiments that used optical, single-cylinder, and multi-cylinder engines. The methodology reduced the number of hardware iterations required.

To meet the specifications of the D35 EcoBoost, the combustion system had to be able to meet the following attributes:

  1. Operate at 17 bar BMEP over a engine speed range between 1,500 to 5,500 rpm.

  2. Achieve fuel-air mixing homogeneity equivalent to its naturally-aspirated (NA) counterpart at part-load conditions to ensure fuel economy targets.

  3. Deliver PZEV engine-out emissions.

  4. Minimize smoke emissions and fuel liner impingement for low oil dilution, to ensure engine durability.

Development of a direct-injection spark-ignition (DISI) engine for optimal performance is technologically challenging. One reasons is that the functional requirements for fuel-air mixture formation are fundamentally different between stratified charge and homogeneous charge operation.

In the EcoBoost engine, homogeneous charge mode is used almost exclusively, except at the cold-start operation where stratified charge operation is found to be very beneficial. Local stratification at cold-start condition provides reliable ignition and stable combustion with reduced emissions. The mixture formation is affected by many complex interactions of fuel spray, in-cylinder flow motion, and piston geometry.

—Yi et al. (2009)

Optimization of intake port. Two major factors drive intake port optimization in turbocharged DISI engines:

  • Port flow capacity to improve engine power; and
  • In-cylinder flow motion that affects fuel droplet trajectory and fuel-air mixing, as well as the turbulent intensity, that affects burn rate, stability, heat transfer and engine knock tendency.

Unfortunately, the Ford engineers noted, the two requirements are generally competing. Higher flow capacity generally results in lower in-cylinder flow motion, while an intake port with higher flow motion generally yields lower flow capacity. Port optimization in the EcoBoost engine concentrated on adequate flow capacity and high tumble flow motion leading to good fuel-air mixing homogeneity and good knock resistance.

Through their work, the engineers identified that the geometry on the short side of the port and the top nose area (‘a’ and ‘d’ in the diagram below, left) are key to affecting the tumble flow motion and port flow capacity.

Saeecoboost3 Saeecoboost4
Port design parameters ‘a’ and ‘d’ shown on Port 5 (blue) vs. GTDI iVCT XO (red). Source: Ford. Click to enlarge. Near-valve flow structure comparison between high flow port (left) and high tumble port (right). The high flow port has a more evenly distributed velocity flow field around the valve seat area, while the high tumble port has a more biased flow structure with flow separation on the short side of the port; 5000 rpm, 19 bar BMEP. Source: Ford. Click to enlarge.

Ford used CFD modeling to evaluate 20 intake port designs; only two were ever made in hardware before deciding on the final design.

Optimization of injector spray pattern. Five major types of injectors are considered for DISI applications: swirl, air-assisted, fan, outward-opening (i.e., piezo), and multi-hole. Ford selected the multi-hole injector design. The multi-hold injector is an extension of the gasoline PFI and diesel injectors, but operates in the range of 30 to 200 bar (compared to around 4 bar for PFI and up to 2000 bar for diesel).

Ford evaluated a total of 24 different injector spray patters with CFD modeling, which predicted mixing homogeneity and piston fuel impingement at warmed-up conditions, and air-fuel ratio at spark timing at cold-start conditions.

Dynamometer data at 1500 rpm/5 bar BMEP confirmed that the optimized spray injector pattern allowed 15° earlier injection timing with low soot emissions.

In a PFI engine (left), fuel is injected onto intake port surfaces and closed intake valves, while in a DI engine (right) the fuel is injected directly into the cylinder, making cold-start emissions more challenging. Source: Ford. Click to enlarge.

Piston bowl optimization and cold-start performance improvement. The cold-start period constitutes the majority of engine emissions due to zero or low conversion efficiency of the aftertreatment system. Testing has shown that both UHC and NOx emissions during the first 50 seconds account for about 80% of the total emissions of the entire FTP75 drive cycle.

Cold starts in a DISI engine are challenging, because during cold-start, the liquid fuel droplets may not fully evaporate in the cylinder due to the colder thermal environment. Some of the droplets may escape into the exhaust system and result in high UHC emissions.

A turbocharged DI engine makes the cold-start emissions even more challenging...twice as much heat flux as in a naturally aspirated DI engine is required to light-off the catalyst due to increased heat loss across the turbocharger. The higher heat flux requirement forces the engine to burn fuel less efficiently inside the cylinder with overly retarded ignition timing. This tends to make the engine combustion very unstable during cold-start operation.

—Yi et al. (2009)

Cold-start is typically considered in two stages: crank and run-up. Ford determined that an optimized intake-compression stroke split injection strategy reduces the UHC by 30% during the cranking period.

The challenge in the second phase is quickly to warm-up the catalyst, commonly achieved by retarding combustion. In a turbocharged DISI engine, the combustion process must be further retarded than in a PFI engine. However, combustion stability deteriorates very quickly as the combustion phasing retards.

Ford identified stratified-charge operation as an enabler to achieve such very retarded combustion timing. Bowl-in-piston geometry and split fuel injection are key to producing the stratified charge. Ford evaluated 15 piston bowl designs using CFD modeling.

The split injection strategy applies the first injection in the early intake stroke and the second injection in the compression stroke. Based on CFD and optical images, Ford engineers further improved the injection strategy by retarding the first fuel injection. The retarded first fuel pulse generates a preliminary fuel-air mixture stratification before the second fuel injection. The second fuel injection reinforces the stratification and forms a much more stable fuel-air mixture around the spark plug.

Testing showed an improvement in combustion stability, and NOx and UHC emissions below the engineering PZEV targets.


  • Jianwen Yi, Brad VanDerWege, Corey Weaver, Zheng Xu, George Davis, Brett Hinds, Andreas Schamel, Steven Wooldridge, Gary Coulson, James Hilditch, Claudia Iyer, Peter Moilanen, George Papaioannou, David Reiche, Michael Shelby. Development and Optimization of the Ford 3.5L V6 EcoBoost Combustion System (SAE 2009-01-1494)

  • Claudia Iyer, Jianwen Yi. 3D CFD Upfront Optimization of the In-Cylinder Flow of the 3.5L V6 EcoBoost Engine (SAE 2009-01-1492)

  • Zheng Xu, Jianwen Yi, Steven Wooldridge, David Reiche, Eric Curtis, George Papaioannou. Modeling the Cold Start of the Ford 3.5L V6 EcoBoost Engine (SAE 2009-01-1493)

  • David B. Reiche, Steven T. Wooldridge, Peter C. Moilanen, George C. Davis. Experimental Optimization of the Cold Start for the EcoBoost Engine (SAE 2009-01-1491)

  • Robert Stein, Christopher House, Thomas Leone. Optimal Use of E85 in a Turbocharged Direct Injection Engine (SAE 2009-01-1490)

  • Anand H. Gandhi, Mark Meinhart. Fuel Injector Flow Rate Analysis for the Duratec 35 EcoBoost (SAE 2009-01-1505)



Good article in Bloomberg about Germany's cash for clunkers program. Lots of new cars but 90+% of them are sub $10k. Ford would be smart to scrap their 3.6 litre engine and concentrate on something people will buy in numbers.

It looks like this technology is scalable to any size engine. Come on F, lets see some 1.2 and 1.4 litre engines!

Will S

Yes, starting this in a 3.6 V6 means they are not really serious and have no understanding of the next impending oil shock.


It is the mix of vehicles that Ford has. The Edge is over 4000 pounds and might not perform well with a 4 cylinder. The VUE from Saturn has gained more than 500 pounds from the previous version with space frame and plastic body panels. I would have kept the SUVs under 3200 pounds if I could.


A whole new engine just to save 12% barely justify it, if they save 15% on teh weight and 15 on the drag coeff then on overwhole it could be significant but I don't think they adress the 2 last items, so that's of limited interest

Will S

The Edge is over 4000 pounds and might not perform well with a 4 cylinder. The VUE from Saturn has gained more than 500 pounds from the previous version with space frame and plastic body panels.

This is a clue that they are continuing their attempt to keep gashogs on life support. They deserve not one more penny from taxpayers.


Ok folks PLEASE do some research before you open your pie holes. The ecoboost line is going to include 4 cylinder engines such as the one powering the new fiesta. As for the edge it is intended to take the place in the world that the expeditions and suburbans did, but do it with twice the fuel economy. Face it folks not all of us will drive small cars. I have 4 cars and not one has a displacement of over 3 liters, and all are small, but I don't need a ton of room. Some people do need the room. As for the expense of engineering a new line of engines, it had to be done for upcoming emissions regulations, not just for economy reasons. Think about it however if you can replace a large displacement cast iron block engine such as the 5.4 liter v8 with this engine the weight reduction is very large. And Will S most of all to you, they have not taken nor asked for 1 dime of taxpayer money. Please read the news more often its important, and this site and the huffington post must not be your only sources.


You tell them Will S! Not one more cent of taxpayer money to add to the tremendous $0.00 they have already gleaned from us!!!! I hate it when these private companies go around getting all that tax money ($0.00) and then go and develop more fuel efficient downsized engines to replace previous gas guzzlers with the same performance. How dare they! The outrage!

Next thing you know, they will do something truly outrageous such as out-sourcing engineering on an electric vehicle instead of squandering R&D dollars to do it all in house! The nerve of some companies.

[boy am I glad I picked up shares of F in November 08]


"...before you open your pie holes..."

You can keep those kind of comments to yourself from now on please. The article was about the V6, so that is where the discussion was centered.


Proud of youall. Curmudgeon Fred here reminding all you fing engine developers that, indeed V6s and 8s are good for one thing...a lot of HEAT and the cooling systems necessary. Show us the under 2 litre 4 and 5 cylinders that "blow doors off" AND get 50mpg (70 for diesels) and MAYBE well be impressed.

Brian P

You save more fuel by putting a 3.5 Ecoboost into, say, a Ford F150 (replacing a 4.6 or 5.4 V8) than you do by putting a 2.0 Ecoboost into a Focus (which already has a 2.0 litre engine, just without the Ecoboost trickery).

To the "ban all the trucks" contingent, who seem to be in ample supply in the above several posts, Ford still needs to sell vehicles that people will actually buy and that they will actually make money on. Smaller versions of the Ecoboost are coming, in smaller vehicles. But will Americans buy them ... ? ? ? And the contractor bringing stuff to a construction site is going to be arriving in a truck or van, for the foreseeable future.



We should vote a law that oblige people who drive a truck should be obliged to wear a T shirt with the words : "I am an ass: I finance Terrorism and I emit twice the green house gas that I need too just because bigger is better"

in 1982 the ratio of sales of truck over car was 1 to 5 it went to to 1.2 to 1 and is down to 1 to 1. Tell me what have changed in the life of people between 1982 and now that justify that they need a truck when they didn't at the time ?


"The Edge is over 4000 pounds and might not perform well with a 4 cylinder."
500 Nm = 369 lb-ft of torque should be good enough to move the Edge and this high torque can be obtained from the new turbo-diesel, 4-cylinder, 2.15-litre M-B engine.


2009 Mazda CX-7 Sport AWD
Standard Engine 2.3L I4
Standard Transmission 6 Speed Automatic
Cylinders 4
Horsepower @RPM 244@5000
Fuel Economy Cty/Hwy 16 / 22
Curb Weight AT 3929

This shows that a 4000 pound SUV can have a turbo 4 cylinder and perform, it just does not get good mileage.

2009 Ford Edge SE FWD
Standard Engine 3.5L V6
Standard Transmission 6 Speed Automatic
Cylinders 6
Horsepower @RPM 265@6250
Fuel Economy Cty/Hwy 17 / 24
Curb Weight AT 4078

Will S

Brian wrote;

You save more fuel by putting a 3.5 Ecoboost into, say, a Ford F150 (replacing a 4.6 or 5.4 V8) than you do by putting a 2.0 Ecoboost into a Focus (which already has a 2.0 litre engine, just without the Ecoboost trickery).

Only for those clueless enough to buy another gashog F-150 because "I need it to pull my big powerboat (or horse trailer or ATV trailer, ad nausem)". The same goes for other gashog purchases that tie us more deeply into energy dependence on the world's major oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Venezuela.

For the record, Ford took taxpayer money to produce an 80mpg family car during the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicle, until Bush cancelled the program as the automakers were getting close to having to actually roll them out of assembly lines. The 5 seater Ford hybrid Prodigy prototype achieved 72 mpg.


Bush turned the PNGV car into the "Freedom Car" running on hydrogen. H2 is far enough away in time not to pose a threat to his friends in the oil business.

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