Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Ford Pushes Fuel Economy, For a Price

Paul Sancya

Boulder, Colorado is the perfect place to try out Ford's new EcoBoost engine.

After all, zipping up Flagstaff Mountain in a Ford Flex is the way to truly feel the increased torque you get with EcoBoost.

The performance from two days of driving in and around Boulder was enough to convince me EcoBoost will definitely have fans.

The bigger question is how many people will pay an extra $3,000 for an EcoBoost engine that will deliver more muscle with less guzzle.

Ford says EcoBoost will be 20% more fuel efficient than a comparable engine while producing 15% fewer emissions. In essence, an EcoBoost will give drivers the power of an 8 cylinder engine while using only as much gas as you would with 6 cylinders. Much of that is due to the turbo charging technology in the engine courtesy of Borg Warner. It is an enticing package.

Ford won't say how many EcoBoost engines it plans to sell this year, but it expects to produce 1.3 million worldwide by 2013. And I can see demand getting a boost when the 4 cylinder version of EcoBoost comes out next year.

There is clearly a market for more fuel efficient engines.

Still, the price of EcoBoost raises the question: how much are Americans willing to pay for fuel efficiency? Hybrids sell at a premium and so will electric cars when they come to market. New technology costs money and early adopters understand that. They're glad to pay more for the experience and benefits.

It's the mass market where EcoBoost and other "fuel saving" technologies that cost more money run into trouble.

Will the average person who wants better mileage add 3 grand onto their car loan to get 20% better mileage?

I'm not sure.

It is similar to why some people love the idea of buying a hybrid, but balk at doing so when they see it will cost $2,500 more than a comparable standard model.

I don't blame people for feeling that way.

The bottom line is this: more fuel efficient engines and technology are coming.

Great for drivers, the environment, and the auto companies.

The real issue is how much you are willing to pay for saving money at the pump.

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