Automakers from every nation are embracing turbochargers as a means of downsizing engine size and improving fuel economy. The next step? Electronic turbochargers, designed to eliminate that pesky nuisance known as turbo lag while simultaneously making smaller engines even more miserly with their fuel.
A report by Navigant Research says that electronic turbos could be the next “big thing” when it comes to fuel economy improvements. “With an electric turbo, the engine management system can request small amounts of boost on-demand to increase torque while climbing a grade while keeping as many as half of the cylinders inactive,” Ronald Wegener, application engineering manager with Valeo, told Navigant. “This can yield up to a 10% improvement in efficiency.”
Audi is at the forefront of this technology, trotting out the RS5 concept and announcing that in 2016 the Q7 TDI SUV would be the first to use an electronic turbo in a production car. Combining an electronic turbo with cylinder navigation can net up to a 10% fuel economy improvement at very little cost. Electronic turbos can even be included on small 48-volt mild-hybrid systems that are expected to grow in popularity over the next decade.
Turbochargers are quickly becoming commonplace on many cars, with an estimated 75% of Ford’s 2014 global vehicle sales using turbochargers, and 85% of new Volkswagens embracing forced induction. Electronic turbochargers could become a frequent addition at little cost to automakers and consumers, while delivering the extra fuel economy government mandates require.