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GM’s Ecotec Engine Family Ready to Power Small Cars

Maker claims engines outperform competition.

by on Mar.20, 2014

The new Ecotec small engine portfolio will include 11 engines,with three- and four-cylinder variants ranging from 1.0 liters to 1.5 liters.

General Motors is ready to roll out a new family of small, three- and four-cylinder gasoline engines that will eventually power one of every four vehicles GM builds around the world.

Engines from the new Ecotec family are already scheduled to power the new Opel Adam, which goes on sale soon in Europe, and the next-generation Chevrolet Cruze for China that GM is planning to unveil next month in Beijing, GM executives said.

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The engines also will be used in vehicles such as the next generation Chevrolet Cruze that will be sold in the U.S. GM officials said. GM is promising to show a refreshed version of the Chevrolet Cruze at the New York Auto Show, but the next-generation Cruze is now expected to reach showrooms in late 2016.

The Opel Adam S is one of the first GM cars that will be powered by the new Ecotec family of three- and four-cylinder engines.

Steve Kiefer, GM vice president of Global Powertrain Engineering, said the new family of engines streamlines the company’s global powertrain line-up by utilizing a pared-down architecture that can be adapted to various markets all around the world

By 2017, GM expects to build 2.5 million Ecotec engines annually in at least five different manufacturing centers, including: Flint, Mich. in the United States; Shenyang, China; Szentgotthárd, Hungary; Toluca, Mexico; and Changwon, South Korea.

A key objective of the three-year effort was to reduce manufacturing complexity. All five plants use the same manufacturing an assembly process, GM officials said.

Kiefer said the new engines were developed specifically to expand GM’s global vehicle portfolio and will power many of the company’s highest-volume small cars and compact crossovers.

“Transportation solutions vary around the world and GM is committed to developing engines matched to the needs of the regions where they’re sold,” said Kiefer, adding the engines will be used by five different GM brands in 27 different models sold in 64 countries by the 2017 model year.

The new Ecotec portfolio will include 11 engines, with three- and four-cylinder variants ranging from 1-liter to 1.5-liter – including turbocharged versions – and power ratings ranging from 75 horsepower to 165 horsepower and torque ranging from 70 lb-ft to 184 lb-ft.

The architecture is also designed to support hybrid propulsion systems and vehicles that run on alternative fuels such as compressed natural gas.

The turbocharged variants enable the engines to deliver the power and torque of larger-displacement engines with the efficiency of smaller engines. For example, the turbocharged 1-liter three-cylinder used in the Opel Adam makes as much power as the naturally aspirated 1.6-liter four-cylinder it replaces – with an estimated 20% improvement in efficiency.

The new engines also will outperform new small engines developed by key competitors, such as Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG, according to Tom Sutter, global chief engineer and one of the leaders of the project, which began three years ago when GM was still reeling from the aftershocks of its 2009 bankruptcy.

Chevy Cruze is going to be powered by the new Ecotec family of engines, starting with new version for China.

Overall, the new Ecotec engines are up to 50% quieter than Volkswagen’s EA211 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine and up to 25% quieter than Ford’s 1-liter turbo three-cylinder engine.

The new three-cylinder engine GM developed with help from Opel engineers in Russelsheim, Germany, is more efficient than Ford’s 1-liter EcoBoost engine, he said.

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“The new Ecotec architecture represents the most advanced and efficient family of small-car gas engines in GM’s history,” Sutter said. “Along with performance and efficiency targets, we’ve also aimed for segment-leading refinement with low noise and vibration.”

Sutter said the new Ecotec engines represent a clean-sheet design and utilized engineering experience and resources from throughout the world.

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Technologies such as central direct fuel injection, continuously variable valve timing, turbo charging and variable intake manifold airflow help achieve efficiency goals with broad power bands, for an optimal balance of strong performance and lower fuel consumption, Sutter said.

In addition, the use of modular parts – such as four-cylinder and three-cylinder blocks – that share bore spacing, bore diameter, liners and other dimensions, reduces complexity while increasing the flexibility to quickly adapt the architecture for new applications.

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Even in the high-output turbo variants, Ecotec engines are calibrated to run on regular unleaded gas.

The new 1.4-liter turbo for the 2015 next-generation Chevrolet Cruze in China is estimated at 148 hp and 173 lb-ft of torque. The 1.5-liter is rated at an estimated 113 hp and 108 lb-ft of torque. The Cruze models with the 1.4-liter turbo engine will also feature an all-new dual-clutch gearbox.

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One Response to “GM’s Ecotec Engine Family Ready to Power Small Cars”

  1. Jorge M. says:

    GM is basically catching up to what the Euro car makers have been doing for years with modular engine design.

    A quiet engine is good, especially if quiet under heavy load as these smaller engines will be working much harder than the larger engine they essentially replace.