The Ricardo HyBoost hybrid system uses an electric supercharger and downsized engine for better performance and efficiency, as Jay Leno got to see in person. The real kicker is the cost though; just $1,100 per car, which could make hybrid cars a heckuva lot more affordable straight from the factory.
Ricardo is an old engineering firm with roots dating back 100 years, and their innovative HyBoost system is very similar to the hybrid system on the McLaren P1 hypercar. The P1 uses a crank-driven electric supercharger to make up for any perceivable turbolag from the turbocharged engine, delivering massive power without any real downside. The result is instant throttle response from a smaller engine.
The same concept is at work on this right-hand drive 2009 Ford Focus, which had its standard gas engine replaced with a 1.0 liter EcoBoost three-cylinder. This is a great little engine, but still suffers from turbolag as the engine takes time to spool the hairdryer up. The Ricardo system adds an electric supercharger that pushes extra air into the turbocharger to spool it up, while the engine revs up to match the needed air suction. The supercharger takes 200 milliseconds to kick in, and as Leno shows, the system is pretty damn seamless.
The whole system runs off of a 12-volt battery and supercapacitors. When the supercharger needs the significant amount of energy required for the electric supercharger, the supercapacitors discharge the energy. Not only does this boost performance, but fuel economy sees a massive 47% increase in fuel economy.
The Ricardo HyBoost system turns the 32 MPG Focus into a 55 MPG Prius fighter, and as Leno points out, it’s both economical and it works damn well. Leno even chirps a gear, just for good measure, knocking home the point that hybrid cars don’t have to be boring. Because the system is so affordable, it won’t be restricted to high cost cars like the McLaren P1 either; Ricardo’s representatives made sure to mention their close work with Ford, which could hint at which company has the drop on this technology.