Supporting the introduction of a new range of high quality vehicles, Fiat Auto also has interesting plans for a host of new engines which are due to enter production in the near future. The developments particularly cover small efficient engines, including a new 1.6 litre JTD midsize diesel, a turbo charged 1.4 litre petrol unit, a new 1.4 litre “Multiair” engine, as well as a new 1.2 litre Bi-fuel engine and experimental Hydrogen powered prototypes which are already knocking around.

Two new engines for the Fiat 500

Due for launch in autumn 2007, the Fiat 500 will represent the quintessential iconic product to complete Fiat’s line-up. Based on the architecture of the ever-successful Fiat Panda, the Fiat 500 will also be built in Poland at the Tychy plant. Engineering, development costs, and manufacturing are being shared with Ford, although Fiat purists will be proud to hear that the engines will be reliable Fiat units. Two of the engines which will be offered on the 500 will be new – namely the new 1.6 litre JTD Diesel, and the new 1.4 litre Turbo Petrol. The former has been engineered with a focus on low-end torque and unrivalled fuel consumption, and will be available with two different power outputs; a waste-gate turbo version with 105 bhp and a high output 120 bhp unit fitted with a variable geometry turbocharger (VGT).

This all new engine will be Euro 5 compliant, partially achieved by means of a second generation diesel particulate filter, whilst optimized engine mapping and combustion chamber architecture will minimise Nitrous Oxide (NOX) emissions. The power output of 120 bhp is comparable to the 1.9 litre JTD 8v unit currently available across the Fiat Auto range, including in the new Alfa Romeo 159. The 1.6 litre engine will become available in the Fiat Grande Punto, an orange prototype was spotted recently circling the demanding Nürburgring track. The engine will also be available on the Fiat Stilo replacement, although sources are stating that the Alfa Romeo 149 will use the 1.9 litre JTD 8v engine instead. The 1.6 litre JTD will be approximately 8% lighter than the 1.9 JTD 8v, and will be first applied towards the end of 2007. It is thus probable that the engine will not be immediately available on the Fiat 500 at launch.

The second new engine offered on the Fiat 500, an engine that will be available from the launch (the engine will also be available on the Grande Punto from mid-2007) will be a 1.4 litre 16v MPI turbocharged petrol unit. Like the 1.6 JTD, this engine will provide the new Fiat 500 with a fair share of punch. Two versions will also be available, with 120 bhp and 150 bhp power outputs. The engine, which belongs to the well regarded “Fire” range, offers not only significantly improved performance over the 115 bhp naturally aspirated 1.6 engine, but also the C02 emissions are reduced by approximately 5% (152.5 g/km NEDC, compared to 160 g/km for the N/A 1.6 engine). Fiat engineers have also calculated that the performance index of the engine is some 3% better for the 120 bhp version, and some 10% better for the 150 bhp version, over the normally aspirated engine. This engine will also be offered in the Stilo replacement.

Fire 1.4 16v Multiair

Centro Ricerche Fiat (CRF) have been developing hydraulic variable valve actuation (VVA), in collaboration with Magnetti Marelli, for about a decade. The system will be applied to several engines right across the range, with the first applications likely to be on the flagship models such as the Alfa Romeo Brera GTA.

Originally, this car was destined to receive a 400 bhp twin turbo 3.2 V6 Euro 4 "Uniair" engine, Uniair also being a CRF developed VVA system. This engine has since been replaced by a Maserati sourced V8, updated by CRF with Multiair, and delivering in the region of 450 bhp, in normally aspirated configuration. Unfortunately these exciting applications usually overshadow the low-output engines, which if anything are all the more impressive due to their relative performance and efficiency. Fiat are developing a 1.4 litre Fire engine, with a modified cylinder head incorporating the Multiair hydraulic valve actuation system. Two naturally aspirated versions are under consideration for the 1.4 block, with 120 bhp and 150 bhp. Compared to the two 1.4 litre 16v MPI turbo engines, the Multiair units offer a 10% increase in performance (calculated largely on the basis of in-gear acceleration). Incredibly, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are also reduced by 10%.

Alternative fuels, the Panda lesson

A practical, readily available alternative to petrol and diesel is compressed natural gas (CNG). CNG is already popular in western Europe, mainly due to the considerably lower cost of the natural gas fuel. CNG offers approximately 80% reduction of pollutant emissions compared to petrol and diesel engines. The technology is available on the Fiat Panda, offering “no-restriction” driving in urban centres, and a running range of over 250 km in CNG mode. On average, the operating costs are cut in half ( 55% reduction in fuel cost). Unlike the old after-market fitted LPG systems, the Panda CNG offers the same boot capacity as the original model. No compromise is thus made between functionality and cost.

For the long term, Fiat are developing two other systems, both of which have been show cased on the successful Fiat Panda, in the form of the Panda Multi-Eco, and the Panda Hydrogen. When considering fuel efficiency and the environment, one has to also consider the vehicle weight - Fiat engineers managed to reduce the weight of the Fiat Multi-Eco prototype by 92 kg, compared to the Panda natural power. This represents a remarkable 9% improvement. Friction in the form of aerodynamics and rolling resistance was also improved on this prototype, with the smoothened bodywork boasting a cx coefficient of merely 0.295. Special "green" tires reduce rolling resistance. Interestingly, the prototype can run off a mixture of CNG and hydrogen gas. In the meantime, Fiat are also developing hydrogen fuel cell technology, which is anticipated to reach the market in the next 15 to 20 years. The technology is in its experimental stage, although small fleets have already been constructed to test and develop the system. Wide-ranging demonstration programs promoted and supported by public institutions are also supporting the development of this crucial technology, which will represent the next big development in the automotive industry.

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