Department of Mechanical Engineering

Clean diesel engine research

Over the last ten years the relationship between Ford Motor Company and the University has grown into one that is of significant benefit to Ford and, I am sure, to the Powertrain and Vehicle Research Centre.

Work at the PVRC gave us a head start in developing a specific engine oil for our 1.0L EcoBoost engine which is now International Engine of the Year.


—Graham Hoare, Chief Engineer at Ford UK

The Powertrain and Vehicle Research Centre has been working in collaboration with industry on fuel efficiency in cars over the past 25 years.

Initially funded by Ford and the Research Councils, the work has more recently received support from the Government’s TSB and the Low Carbon Vehicle Innovation Platform.

Pioneering new combustion systems

Working in cooperation with Ford in the late 1980s, we developed new combustion systems to improve fuel efficiency and power of diesel engines in passenger cars, as well as lowering their noxious emissions.

Industry has adopted the outputs from our work and Ford has integrated it into their low-carbon Duratorq and EcoBoost diesel engines (with a combined European manufacture of one million a year).

We helped develop new combustion systems and established the components that diesel engines have subsequently adopted.

Our research resulted in a 15 per cent reduction in fuel consumption over previous technology, allowing the diesel engine to achieve a superior CO2 advantage over an equivalent petrol engine.

Research adopted and integrated by industry

Our researchers cooperated with Ford, Visteon and Ricardo Consulting Engineers in the 1990s, to enhance thermal efficiency in engine cooling systems to reduce CO2.

Our research provided the first real understanding of the characteristics of boiling liquids in diesel engine cylinder heads and again industry has adopted our outputs and integrated into the tools provided by Ricardo now used to design new engines.

Furthermore, the PVRC researchers, funded by  the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), Ford and BP, developed a novel design of cooling and oil circulation that has been implemented on production engines, producing a 4 per cent improvement in fuel economy.

As this work progressed, we recognised that the accumulation of a number of small but measurable improvements in fuel consumption can deliver significant overall CO2 savings.

Saving 150,000 tonnes of CO2 every year

More recently, we jointly worked with BP and Ford in a Department of Trade and Industry (dti) technology programme on enhanced diesel engine lubrication systems for reduced environmental impact.

In this programme, our researchers achieved fuel reductions of around 5 per cent through combined improvements to vehicle engine cooling systems, oil pump design and lubrication oil formulations.

This work has directly informed Ford’s low-carbon Duratorq and EcoBoost diesel engines that have a combined European manufacture of one million a year.

As a result, the 5 per cent saving in CO2 represents a saving of up to 150,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Ford sold nearly 14 per cent of all new passenger cars in the UK in 2012. In this year, the Fiesta and Focus were the first and third best-selling cars in the UK, with combined sales of 192,380 of which 112,000 were fitted with the new EcoBoost engine.