For as long as we have been racing cars, motorsport tech has bled over into the world of street cars. And while we tend to associate this crossover with high-end sports cars, you may be surprised at the amount of motorsports-derived tech that can be found on your daily driver. Disc brakes, ABS, all-wheel drive, and even turbocharging all got their start in the world of racing. Now though, it appears that Ford might soon be taking a page out of F1’s book of tricks to help improve their F-150 pickup truck. According to a new report from MotorTrend, the automaker is researching a pre-chamber ignition system for the Ford F-150 and its EcoBoost engine.
Pre-chamber ignition technology isn’t all that new. Diesel engines used this tech by way of glow-plugs before the era of direct injection, and Honda even played around with the tech back in the 1970s. More recently however, Mercedes-AMG have used the technology to increase the performance of their F1 cars amid tightening fuel and engine capacity regulations. As the name might suggest, these systems function by utilizing a secondary chamber above the standard cylinder. Depending on whether or not this is an active or passive system, this chamber receives its own spark plug and injector. When the air fuel mixture in the pre-chamber is ignited, small holes at the bottom of the chamber funnel fire into the main chamber, which then ignites the mixture found there. This allows the engine to run a leaner ratio, and in turn increases efficiency and output.
Ford is working with FEV and Oak Ridge National Laboratory on the $10 million project, which is slated to take three years. The group hopes to improve efficiency by 23 percent and reduce engine mass by as much as 15 percent over Ford’s current 3.5L EcoBoost engine using a pre-chamber ignition system. The Department of Energy is partially funding the project, and has tasked the trio with targeting five main areas of concern: engine-knock mitigation, lean combustion, thermal management, friction reduction, and weight reduction.
Unlike the current 3.5L EcoBoost engine, Ford is reportedly mulling over an inline-six engine design to help reach those efficiency targets. This is due to the fact that an inline motor can utilize an integrated head and exhaust manifold, as well as a simpler valvetrain. Plus, who doesn’t love a twin-turbocharged inline-six? That said, the folks over at Maserati are taking the exact opposite approach. Rather than using an active pre-chamber ignition system, the sports car manufacturer is using a passive unit on their MC20’s Nettuno V6 engine. They aren’t chasing efficiency like the Blue Oval however. That said, both engines will utilize direct and port injection. Ford is even thinking about tossing a compressed-air injector set-up in there as well, meaning there will be three injectors per cylinder. That could prove rather difficult to service in the long term.
So then before you know it we could start to see some F1 tech in the Ford F-150. That is a sentence you likely didn’t expect to read, but the automotive world is a rapidly changing place. We’re all for the idea of finding ways to extend the life of the ICE-powered vehicle, especially if we can do so efficiently. Furthermore, we’d love to see an inline-six engine return to the Ford F-150, simply for the exhaust note alone.