Global Network Drives New Ecotec Engine Development

2014-03-19


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  • Development driven through engineering centers in the United States, Germany, China and South Korea
  • Computer simulation and modeling supports global design process, streamlines development
  • All variants tested and validated to some of the industry’s toughest standards

DETROIT – General Motors’ new Ecotec family of small-displacement engines will power the company’s highest-volume small cars and compact crossovers around the world. Ensuring it meets performance, efficiency, durability and refinement goals for every local market is the responsibility of about 300 engineers at GM’s development centers in the United States, Germany, China and South Korea.

The new Ecotec portfolio will eventually include 11 engines, with three- and four-cylinder variants ranging from 1.0L to 1.5L. The architecture is also designed to support hybrid propulsion systems and alternative fuels. All variants were developed simultaneously, with each engineering center focused on specific design elements and local applications.

“The new Ecotec family is a globally designed and manufactured engine designed to deliver class-leading performance, efficiency and refinement in a wide variety of applications around the world,” said Tom Sutter, global chief engineer. “Each variant is designed for a specific application or local market, but all share design, performance and refinement traits that make the new architecture one of the most adaptable in the industry.”

Development of the new Ecotec architecture was headquartered in Pontiac, Mich., with design and validation shared among the global network of engineering centers. Primary development of the 1.0L three-cylinder variant, for example, was conducted at the Rüsselsheim, Germany facility, which is in the heart of the market for its launch in the Opel ADAM.

Similarly, Shanghai-General Motors in China drove validation of the new 1.4L turbocharged and 1.5L naturally aspirated direct-injection engines that will be offered in the 2015 next-generation Chevrolet Cruze for the Chinese market. GM’s Seoul, South Korea engineering center has taken the lead on calibrating and validating the new Ecotec port-fuel-injection variants.

“GM’s powertrain strategy leverages the strength of our global resources to deliver an uncompromising product for local markets,” said Sutter. “It is a truly global undertaking that requires the full strength of our worldwide network of engineers.”

Computer simulation and modeling were instrumental in developing the new global engine family through the different engineering centers, as engineers were able to design and test parts virtually and immediately share the results with their colleagues in different corners of the world. It wasn’t simply the size and shape of the components that are simulated, either. Friction, temperature, emissions, efficiency and other performance attributes were modeled and simulated multiple times to optimize performance before the first physical components were produced.

The modeling also helped design the cylinder block and other components with structural and acoustic considerations that contribute to world-class refinement.

“By doing the majority of the development with math data, the time to design, validate and bring to market an all-new engine family – one that will produce 11 variants around the globe – is greatly reduced,” said Sutter.

The quicker development process helps reduce the overall investment in designing a new engine family from scratch, while the modularity of the new Ecotec family contributes to a streamlined powertrain portfolio. The strategy allows advanced features such as central direct fuel injection and premium components, including a quietness-enhancing inverted-tooth cam drive chain, to be used across the engine range. This enables economies of scale to drive down cost while achieving benchmark levels of performance and refinement.

In fact, the new Ecotec architecture will effectively replace three families in GM’s global portfolio, reducing complexity and manufacturing costs.

And while calibration and performance characteristics vary among variants for different global markets, all of the new Ecotec variants were tested under GM’s strict regimen regardless of their application. It’s one of the toughest set of standards in the industry and included a battery of round-the-clock performance and durability trials such as:

  • Running test engines continuously for more than 2,000 hours at 5,200 rpm – the equivalent of 12 straight weeks at wide-open-throttle
  • Cycling engines for 400 straight hours (more than 16 days) between peak horsepower and peak torque rpm levels – a torturous test that pushes rotating parts such as the crankshaft and connecting rods to their limits
  • Running engines on tilt stand – a hydraulically actuated dynamometer that tilts the engine during operation to simulate driving on steep grades or high-speed cornering, which helps ensure the oiling system maintains full pressure during extreme driving conditions
  • Cold- and heat-soak tests that ensure the engine will start and operate normally in temperatures as low as -40 degrees F (-40 C) and as high as 220 degrees F (104 C)
  • Testing in an acoustic laboratory to measure engine sound frequency, ensuring production-spec components work harmoniously to produce low vibration and a pleasing engine sound.

“There was no drama on the dyno with the new Ecotec engine family,” said Kendell Fulton, assistant chief engineer for Ecotec engines. “The physical testing essentially confirmed what the modeling suggested. The new Ecotec family performed as expected, delivering on the performance, efficiency, durability and refinement goals established at the beginning of the program.”

By 2017, more than 2.5 million new Ecotec engines are projected to be built annually in at least five manufacturing locations around the globe: Flint, Mich. (USA); Shenyang, China; Szentgotthárd, Hungary; Toluca, Mexico; and Changwon, South Korea. The Flint facility alone represents an investment of more than $200 million in technology and tooling to support the engines’ production.

GM’s powertrain operations comprise 86 facilities in 17 countries, including engineering and manufacturing.

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world's largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM, its subsidiaries and joint venture entities sell vehicles under the Chevrolet, Cadillac, Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Isuzu, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling brands. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.

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