Turbochargers: More Power – Lower Fuel Consumption

Turbochargers ImageWhen turbochargers first appeared in the 1980s, they were considered loud, fast and likely to blow out and destroy weak engines. Fortunately, times have changed and so have turbochargers. Today, turbochargers are used in almost every type of automobile. According to  RNR Market Research, the automotive turbocharger market is projected to reach a market size of 18.49 billion US dollars by 2021.

Why Turbochargers Have Become So Popular

According to Natural Resources Canada (NRC), the new turbocharger technology can make engines more energy-efficient in order to meet Canada’s increasingly stringent greenhouse gas emission standards for light-duty vehicles. The NRC reports that by using smaller, turbocharged engines fuel consumption can be lowered by 2 to 6%. This saves you money and reduces your impact on the environment.

How Turbochargers Work

Standard engines draw air at atmospheric pressure whereas turbochargers force air into an engine’s cylinders. This ability of turbocharged engines enables small engines to produce the same power as a larger standard engine.

The increase in power comes from the ability of turbochargers to use the otherwise wasted energy from the exhaust to drive a turbine that is attached to a compressor which forces air into the cylinders of the engine. The increased amount of air and fuel results in a larger combustion reaction and therefore more power. What’s more, engine pistons have less work to do when they pull the air-fuel mixture into the combustion chamber.

At Norlang Auto, since 1998, we have been helping our customers keep their turbochargers in perfect running order. When your turbocharger is working properly, you not only save money but you also help protect our fragile environment.

The Future of Turbochargers

Εlectric turbochargers will become more common which will eliminate issues which plagued older turbochargers. For example, lag time issues can be eliminated since there won’t be a need to use the exhaust gas to spin the spool to full speed. Electric turbochargers can use excess exhaust to produce electricity which is passed back to the turbo, the car or into a regenerative hybrid setup.

Additionally, the build quality on the turbos is constantly improving. Turbochargers are becoming more reliable and able to handle more extreme boost pressures.

Currently, at maximum throttle, a typical stock turbocharger can spin at up to 300,000 rpm. This is fast enough to transfer the air through the intake at speeds that can reach almost Mach 1 (about 1,200 km/h). In the next 5-10 years, it is expected that manufacturers will produce turbochargers that can reach pressures of between 31 and 36 psi, which is around twice the average pressure of the high-performance turbos of today.

Current Issues With Electric Turbochargers

Electric superchargers have already been used in Jaguar’s V8, the 5.4-liter engine in the Mustang GT500  and the Corvette ZR1, among others, which work in the same way but without any connection to the exhaust stream.

Power Supply Issue

However, these electric turbochargers have numerous issues. For instance, their reliability is still unproven and they consume too much electricity. They need a more powerful power supply. It is estimated that electrically-powered turbo would need a 48-volt battery, but most car manufacturers haven’t been working on redesigning the current standard 12-volt system. This issue could be avoided if we connect electric turbos to the high-voltage batteries used in conventional hybrid cars. According to Honeywell Turbo Technologies by 2020, almost 25% of all new hybrid cars will have electrically-powered turbochargers.

Cooling Issue

Since turbos can reach temperatures of 1,050 degrees Celsius, cooling is an important issue which must be dealt with. Currently, air-to-air and air-to-liquid intercoolers are used to cool the intake charge. However, engineers believe that the cooling issue could be resolved more effectively with water injection.

The idea of spraying water either into the fuel-air mixture or directly into the cylinder in order to cool parts of the engine is an old one. It was used in some WWII aircraft in order to protect the engines. In fact, this cooling system not only protected the engines of airplanes, but it also enabled fighters with full loads to take off from shorter runways, gain altitude faster and boost for short bursts during dogfights.

BMW has used water injection for the M4 GTS racer to give the engine a significant performance boost, making it a street legal race car. The additional power is achieved due to a fine mist of water which is pumped from a tank in the boot into the engine to lower temperatures and boost the compression ratio.

Fuel Economy Issue

Fuel economy is one of the biggest challenges. Although smaller turbocharged engines can achieve significant fuel economy, the same cannot be said for larger engines. For example, Ford’s 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine can get as much as 28 kilometres per litre, but the bigger 2.7-litre and 3.5-litre EcoBoosts get about the same mileage as Chevrolet’s larger 6.2-liter V8.

Possible Solutions

The lag issue could also be overcome by variable-vane turbochargers. These turbochargers are able to automatically open and close the vanes in the turbine housing to spin faster when revs are low.

A decade ago, variable-vane turbos were believed to be the hottest new engine technology. Unfortunately, today, variable-vane turbos are only available in a limited number of sports cars, such as the 911 Turbo. Hopefully, as with all high-end technology, this will also eventually become more affordable and applied to our average priced automobiles.

The experts at Honeywell believe that car manufacturers need to implement and optimize forced induction (turbo-supercharging and supercharging).  Unlike turbochargers, superchargers don’t use the exhaust gas but instead achieve their rotational power by adding a belt driven by the engine’s crankshaft. The inlet manifold pressure and density are increased in order to make the cylinders ingest a greater mass of air during each intake stroke. This turbocharging system can double, triple or even quadruple the power production of an engine.

For car manufacturers, factors like complexity, reliability and cost are significant challenges which need to be overcome in the development of turbocharger technology. However, in terms of fuel economy and performance that modern turbos can offer, it is vital that this technology continues to develop.

If you would like more information about our turbocharger services, contact our experts at Norlang Auto who can answer all your questions and can conduct a thoroughly professional service of your engine in order to ensure that it is performing as it should be.

Please call us at 604-337-1515 or book an appointment online.