The Rise of Modern-Day Turbochargers

Big Improvements, Bigger Performance

Modern-day turbochargers boost performance and increase efficiency. These performance products have come a long way since the early days of high expense and unreliability. Today, vehicle owners reap the benefits of improved fuel economy and lower emissions because of advancements in computer-controlled turbo technology.

No longer associated merely with diesels and high performance gasoline-fueled cars, automakers have turned to turbochargers as an effective way for consumers to have the best of both worlds: the excellent fuel economy ratings associated with a downsized gas engine, yet the power deliverance of a larger one.

Governments across the globe continue to receive pressure to achieve higher fuel economy in vehicle fleets; they’ve placed their bets on turbochargers as the answer to better fuel mileage, lower emissions and happy customers. Glad they doubled down, turbo technology helped automakers reach EPA goals of 35.5 mpg in 2016. Expect that figure to rise to a staggering 54.5 mpg by 2025.

Role of Major Automakers

It’s clear that major automakers are producing several turbocharged-engine models. In fact, predictions by IHS Global Insight Automotive and Borg Warner state two-, three- and four-cylinder engines will make up 98% of total global engine growth through 2016. The U.S. and Canada will primarily be four-cylinder engines, but Ford did introduce the 2014 Fiesta with a three-cylinder EcoBoost option.

During 2014, approximately “17% of all new commercial and passenger vehicles being sold in North America were turbocharged and the number is expected to increase to 31% of total sales by 2018,” commented Michael Stoller, Communications Director for Honeywell Transportation Systems, a major developer and manufacturer of turbo systems. The EPA recently projected that 90% of new vehicles in the U.S. market could be turbocharged by 2025.

What’s Next for Turbochargers?

Honeywell predicts next-generation turbochargers will sport multi-staged boosting, which can achieve greater engine performance without violating fuel economy regulations. It works via a two-stage application with two variable geometry turbochargers combined in series for ultimate power and response. The technology currently focuses on diesel engines, but it’s only a matter of time before the innovation extends to gas-powered engines.

Automakers also are looking at hybrid powertrain systems to include a turbocharger option. Potential future enhancements like electric boosting and energy recovery may supply more efficient power and better fuel economy. Maybe one day we’ll be chatting about the popularity of the two- and three-cylinder engines providing the power of yesterday’s six-cylinder option.

Enthusiasts concur that turbochargers finally have a solid foothold in passenger cars. The future for aftermarket companies should be stable as well. Lower costs and rising models on the road present business opportunities regardless of OEM advancements.

Turbochargers are complex systems. The general public’s lack of specialized knowledge regarding how to properly care for turbo systems can mean post-purchase opportunities for consumers to consult with aftermarket manufacturers, retailers and shop fabricators about proper maintenance, management and upgrades such as modified wheels that affect boost or electronic control systems to improve tuning.

Tell us, what are your predictions in the evolution of the turbocharger?


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