The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected Ford Motor Company to conduct research that will focus on improving flexible-fuel engines capable of running on E85 and clean combustion diesel engines. The two grants awarded, totaling up to $4.5 million, are part of a DOE $21.5 million commitment to 11 cost-shared research and development projects, with a goal of improving the fuel efficiency of light-duty vehicle engines. Ford is also a research partner on a third grant awarded to Michigan State University.

“We are very excited about this news,” said Sue Cischke, Ford's senior vice president Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering. “As a leader in both flexible fuel and hybrid technology, Ford is the ideal company to be involved with this research.”

Ford Motor Company received two of the eleven project grants that were given by the DOE. The first project, with an award up to $3.2 million, will focus on improving flexible-fuel engines and light-duty vehicles that operate on ethanol-gasoline blends up to 85 percent ethanol (E85) by volume. Ford's project specifically will explore the use of knock-suppression properties of ethanol with increased compression ratios to allow use of smaller, more fuel efficient engines.

The second project, with an award of up to $1.3 million, is for a project to use diesel-boosting technologies to improve efficiency and performance of advanced, clean combustion diesel engines. Ford will partner with ConceptsNREC, Wayne State University and FEV Engine Technology for this effort.

Ford will be involved in a third DOE grant research project, but as a partner with Michigan State University. The research will focus on the formulation of novel biofuel blends and their optimization for performance in advanced, low-temperature combustion diesel engines.

Ford began producing flexible fuel vehicles in the late 1980s and currently has more than two million E85-capable flexible fuel vehicles on the road. Ford has committed to doubling its flexible fuel vehicle production by 2010.

Ford’s commitment to research in alternative fuels was recently demonstrated with the launch of a 20 vehicle demonstration fleet of E85 Ford Escape Hybrids, marrying two alternative fuel technologies. The first three of the E85 Escape Hybrids were delivered last month to the DOE, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and the Governors' Ethanol Coalition.

Ford was also the first to introduce a hybrid SUV with the Ford Escape Hybrid in 2004. Ford will introduce hybrid versions of the popular Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan midsize sedans in 2008.

“In addition to hybrids and flexible fuel vehicles, Ford is committed to the development of other advanced alternative fuel technologies, including clean diesel, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen,” said Cischke. “This research grant will help us further develop technologies designed to help reduce this nation's dependence on imported oil.”

When combined with the industry cost-share, the DOE investment will total nearly $43 million, with funding expected to begin this fiscal year and continue through fiscal year 2010. All 11 projects will focus on optimizing fuel economy in ethanol-powered engines; developing advanced lubrication systems; and exploring high-efficiency, clean-combustion diesel engines.