How to meet CAFÉ Standards: Turbochargers

I have always thought of turbochargers in a naïve way as something that would be in a car in movies like The Fast and the Furious to make cars go faster in races.  However, the ubiquitous use of turbochargers in everyday vehicles has lead me to believe that speed isn’t the only benefit of having a turbocharged engine.  I will give a brief introduction of what turbochargers are and what they do: turbochargers work with the engine to increase horsepower of cars, and it does this by using waste hot exhaust and recycling that back into the engine to power it.   How can something that “simply” increases horsepower make cars more efficient?  Turbochargers can significantly increase the horsepower of an engine, which means that automakers can use smaller more fuel efficient engines that will still accelerate upon request due to the turbocharger.

 

At the beginning of the class we spoke about how automobile racing and aftermarket improvements helped push innovation and new technology in the automobile industry.  This trend seems to be continuing as the article points towards Formula One racing as the leader in turbocharger breakthroughs.  Granted the “power units” that now push Formula One cars to the limit also employ superchargers, hybrid systems, and generators, turbocharger progress has been huge in facilitating lighter and more fuel efficient racecars.  The opportunity to combine hybrid systems power by turbochargers and small batteries yields even greater potential for improved fuel efficiency and better cars.  It may be awhile before these types of technologies are implemented in the mass produced cars we see everyday on the roads, but companies are already beginning to look into it as the government 54.5 mpg CAFÉ requirement looms in the near future.

 

NYTimes Article: “New Twists in Turning Hot Air Into Horsepower

2 comments to How to meet CAFÉ Standards: Turbochargers

  • Kuangdi Zhao

    Turbocharger requires higher pressure inside the engine comparing to ordinary engine. Under higher pressure, engine parts are more vulnerable to break down. This requires supplier to build higher quality engine parts and use better designs, which potentially increase the cost to construct an engine. Also, turbocharger requires better oil quality. In countries where oil quality cannot be guaranteed, the durability of turbo engine is questionable comparing that of ordinary engine.

  • My new Cruze is turbocharged, so I have lots of pep with a 1.4L engine, while having fuel economy only a bit worse than the much more expensive Prius.

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