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Media post: A new type of turbocharger

BorgWarner turbocharger. Picture courtesy

There’s a lot to like about electric vehicles and one would think they are ready to become the dominant technology on our roads. Except they aren’t. Electric cars make great replacements for passenger automobiles, but trucks are an entirely different matter. Until electric propulsion technology offers the performance and affordability of gas and diesel-powered engines, the status quo will reign – i.e. internal combustion engines.

Keeping the venerable internal combustion engine up-to-date, though, isn’t easy. The challenge for automakers lies in keeping up with ever stricter fuel economy requirements and emissions regulations while delivering the performance that consumers demand. Fortunately, there are automobile companies with a lot of bright engineers that keep new technologies coming. BorgWarner is one of those companies.

BorgWarner is an industry supplier that has a history of building innovative and durable automotive components. According to Trinity of Taylorville, a local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer in Taylorville, IL, it was BorgWarner that Dodge went to when they needed an ultra-strong manual transmission for their Viper sportscar. Today, a new BorgWarner technology has been developed to make engines more fuel efficient and it is taking the industry by storm. It’s a new type of supercharger technology.

First, a word about turbochargers. They are essentially a small turbine, driven by exhaust gasses, that forces more air into an engine. Since this means more oxygen is driven into the engine, it develops more power from the same amount of fuel. Ah, but turbochargers have one key weakness: When you quickly need power, such as when passing a car, when you step on the pedal, it can take a few seconds for the engine to respond because the turbo needs to start spinning. Engineers call this delay lag.

Over the years, various improvements have reduced supercharger delay lag but BorgWarner has developed a technology that all but eliminates it. They call it an “e-booster” and it is basically an electric motor connected to a turbocharger that spins the turbo up fast (70,000 rpm in three-tenths of a second!) providing a performance boost until the turbocharger gets up to speed. The company claims it greatly improves efficiency and could increase fuel efficiency by up to 10 percent.

BorgWarner first toyed with this idea in the late 1990s, but decided the e-booster needed too much power. But the recent introduction of 48-volt electrical systems in cars has changed the picture. 48-volt systems can prove four times the power of a traditional 12-volt system this allows automakers to power a lot of devices with electric motors.

Even though the e-booster technology is thoroughly fleshed out, it will be several years before you will see one in your standard car. Automotive engineers are working on other electrically-driven engine components and the 48-volt systems that they require.

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