The Quest for Fuel Efficiency

Automobile manufacturers are constantly researching and testing new and innovative ways to improve fuel efficiency. 9- and 10-speed automatic transmissions, cylinder deactivation and weight reduction have grown to become three of the leading avenues automotive manufacturers have taken to improve fuel economy and vehicle performance. According to recent reports, General Motors Corporation and Ford Motor Company have teamed up to help combat the issue of fuel efficiency by designing 9- and 10-speed automations. While Ford is at the cusp of new material and technology to lessen the weight of their F-Series pickup trucks.


9- and 10-speed automatic transmissions are a component of the next generation in fuel efficient autos. German manufacturer, ZF Friedrichshafen introduced their own eight and nine-speed transmissions, which currently can be found in vehicle models from the likes of Chrysler and Land Rover. GM and Ford announced a collaboration between the two automobile manufactures in the development of 9- and 10-speed automatic transmissions that will boast an even greater fuel economy and a higher standard of vehicle performance. GM is focusing efforts on designing the 10-speed transmission to be used in front-wheel drive and traverse vehicle applications. While Ford’s efforts are focused on designing the 9-speed transmission to be utilized in rear-wheel applications, specifically luxury and performance vehicles.


An engine’s displacement is the volume of a single cylinder multiplied by the number of cylinders. An engine capable of variable displacement changes the number of cylinders it runs on, in turn changing the effective displacement. Fuel flow to the inactive cylinders is cut, and the valves are deactivated. With fewer cylinders to fill, fuel economy improves. This is generally executed by using one of two common methods – depending on whether the engine is a pushrod design or overhead cam design. Cylinder deactivation in pushrod designs – solenoids are used to alter individual valve lifter oil pressure, resulting in the collapse of the hydraulic valve lifters. While in the collapsed position, lifters are unable to elevate companion pushrods, this results in the valves remaining closed. Overhead cam designs differ in the sense that a pair of locked rocker arms are engaged. Similar to how pushrod design cylinders deactivate, solenoid controlled oil pressure will release a locking pin between the two arms. As one arm continues the motion of the camshaft, the unlocked arm remains motionless, unable to engage the valve. Ford, in collaboration with the Schaeffler Group, have been investigating different methods for cylinder deactivation, focusing efforts on their 1.0-liter, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine. While using a fully functioning prototype, road tests have proved fuel efficiency improvements of nearly 6%.

The process is completed as fuel delivery for each deactivated cylinder is cut-off by disabling the appropriate fuel injection nozzles, resulting in improved fuel efficiency.


As Ford’s research fueled the drive for innovative ways to improve fuel economy, the answer commonly arrives at the same conclusion – cut the weight of the vehicle. Weight reduction has been seen most commonly in the production of their aluminum framed F-150 pickups as they revealed plans at 2014’s Detroit Auto Show. By shifting materials from steel to aluminum, the auto manufacturer decreases the weight of the vehicle by nearly 700 pounds (depending on size of the vehicle). Pete Reyes, chief engineer of the Ford F-150 spoke to the material’s strength and durability, stating, “Aluminum being a third as dense as steel, you can have three times the thickness before you have the same weight as steel”.

As time has shown, Ford’s decision to switch materials has proven to be a success with continued growth in sales and an improved fuel economy of 18/25mpg /city/highway of their F-150 pickups. Ford has been testing aluminum F-Series trucks since 2009, allowing for years of “extreme” field testing in construction sites and the like, including a “pintle hit test”. An internal test developed by Ford to test the durability of the pickup’s cargo box.

Michigan Custom Machines, Helping Improve Fuel Efficiency through Testing

– Millions of Cylinder Deactivation Vales are tested annually on MCM equipment

– Valve Bodies / Transmission Electro-Hydraulic Control Modules (TEHCMs) are tested on MCM equipment successfully everyday

Are you an original equipment manufacturer looking for fuel system testing equipment? Michigan Custom Machines Inc, is the premier choice in specially designed testing equipment for automotive and industrial manufacturers.

To learn more about the testing machinery we build.

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