Ford Says PowerShift Will Boost Fleet MPG

By Danny King March 15, 2011

Ford Focus with PowerShift.jpg

Ford Motor Co. says cars equipped with its new six-speed automated-manual transmission can boost fuel economy by almost 10 percent relative to a more traditional four-speed automatic. The automaker debuted the new PowerShift transmission on the 2010 Fiesta and is featuring it heavily in marketing for the 2012 Focus (above). Ford plans to use it across its entire lineup by mid-decade, and said it improves mileage with efficiencies achieved through use of computer controls, reduced mass and narrower gear ranges.

FordPowerShift6speed.jpgInstead of a torque converter, the automatic transmission utilizes a pair of dry clutches, each linked to a separate electromechanically shifted manual transmission and all in the same case and controlled by a computer. The set-up stems from dual-clutch transmissions used in more exotic, high-performance cars. It results in a transmission that is 30 pounds lighter than a standard Ford four-speed automatic and offers crisper shifts, little loss of power between gears and more efficient power delivery in each gear.

The PowerShift transmission is one example of the of techniques automakers are using as they continue improving the efficiency and emissions performance of cars and trucks with conventional internal combustion engines. Others include turbocharging, which can let them replace larger, less-efficient engines with smaller, lighter and less-thirsty powerplants; increased aerodynamics, low rolling-resistance tires; use of lightweight frame and body material; variable engine valve timing; direct fuel injection and lightweight engine components.

Ford PowerShift gear selector.jpgFord says it is using advanced automatic drive trains with conventional gasoline engines, along with a broader line of electric-drive vehicles planned for introduction over the next few years, to meet progressively more stringent U.S. fleet-wide emissions and fuel economy standards. Last month, the 2012 Ford Focus with the six-speed automatic transmission was rated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at 40 miles per gallon on the highway and 28 miles per gallon in the city.  That's about 33.5 mpg overall and a nearly 10 percent increase combined fuel economy over the 2011 Focus.

The 2012 model joined the Fiesta SE, Fusion Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid on the list of Ford models with a highway rating of at least a 40 miles per gallon rating. Ford is hoping such advances help boost its sales - and its image - as gas prices nationally approach $4 a gallon. For the 2010 model year, Ford's truck-heavy light-duty vehicle fleet had average fuel economy of just 20.5 miles per gallon, finishing 12th of the 14 major vehicle makers. Only Daimler and Chrysler had less fuel-efficient fleets, according to the EPA.

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