Build it and they will come? How about an F1 triples?


As we ramp up for the opening race of the Formula 1 season — which means I need to figure out if I even get the channel it will be on — I thought a little detour might be in order. This one is especially for our more technologically minded readers.

That’s because I’m talking about triples. As in three-cylinder, uber tiny engines.

I caught the topic over at ye olde New York Times:

At 52 pounds, the cast-iron block of Ford’s new 1-liter EcoBoost engine is a bantamweight among automobile power plants. (Mr. Daitch didn’t even incur an overweight bag fee.) With the total capacity of its three cylinders equal to the volume of a large soft-drink bottle, it’s also tiny: placed upright on a desk, the block fits easily within the edges of a file folder.

The compact dimensions of 3-cylinder engines, together with fuel efficiency and reasonably good performance, have pushed Ford and a growing list of competitors — including Audi, BMW, Citroën, Mini, Peugeot and Volkswagen — to introduce a new generation of triples, as they are often called.

The thing is, unlike an first, horrible round of these engines in the 1980s, these new triples pack a punch: Ford’s produces 123 horsepower and, the Times reports, 90% of maximum torque at just 1,500 RPM.

This, too, caught my eye:

Ford engineers settled on 300 cc for each cylinder, with a long piston stroke, which helps to minimize the engine’s overall length. The short cylinder block helps to reduce what engineers call a rocking couple, which Mr. Bakaj described as the engine’s tendency to rock end-to-end along its longitudinal axis as the crankshaft rotates.

Ford’s clever use of an unbalanced flywheel and pulley at opposite ends of the crankshaft smooth out shaking, so it does not require a balance shaft, a solution often used in small automotive engines. BMW’s new 1.5-liter triple has a balance shaft, which consumes power and adds weight.

Did someone say flywheel?!

My main reason for dropping this onto your radar is, of course, the concurrent move in Formula 1 toward smaller, six-cylinder engines next year. Is this possibly a trickle-down or trickle-up scenario? Isn’t F1 better off when it is at least somewhat relevant to what’s happening off the track? And is this more fodder for those committed to the change in F1 engine formula? Could one ever imagine Ford as an engine supplier again?

And which F1Ber will be the first to go to a triple?

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