From disk brakes to electronically shifted transmissions, there is a long list of technologies that migrated from race cars to their on road counterparts. It is rare to see a technology that championed in regular cars to move from the road to track. Turbochargers are among this list of such rare technologies. Automotive turbocharger, an ultra-sophisticated device made for sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and higher version of cars, has been swiftly picked up by race car makers as they intend to create safer technologies giving better speed control to drivers.
Some of the behemoths in the industry have invested billions of dollars on turbocharger research. Many of these researches yielded positive results, which led to the advent of lighter and more responsive turbochargers that also scored impressively on reliability. Thanks to innovations in the last few years, turbochargers have become a critical component of the powertrain infrastructure.
Key Innovations in Turbochargers
Electrification of Turbochargers
Recent technologies are allowing electrification of turbochargers as means to generate the power needed to spool up in a jiffy. These innovations also enabled routing of a vehicle’s electrical system, which is indicative of how turbochargers are evolving in tandem. Manufacturers are leaving no stone unturned to offer high-performance. Some have even started using improved materials to complement the cutting-edge designs.
Improvement in Materials
As is known, one side of a turbocharger always sits in the exhaust stream that exposes it to immense amount of heat. Reducing the temperature will mean excessive fuel wastage. Thankfully modern turbochargers come in a stainless-steel housing and have nickel-alloy turbines that offer them greater heat resistance.
Direct Fuel Injection
Modern technologies have allowed direct fuel injection into combustion chamber instead of the intake stream. As a result the risk of harmful detonation or pre-ignition is dramatically reduced in vehicles, allowing engineers to tout more efficient and higher compression ratios.
Research Initiatives on Turbochargers
This is not it! Some of the leading players within the automotive sector are launching a unique suite of innovations to improve the overall performance of commercial and heavy-duty wastegated turbochargers. Cummins, for instance, used real-world lab testing and advanced computer modelling to steer significant improvements in turbocharger efficiency. Their efforts included a revolutionary design for turbine exit with wastegate flow control and the development of a highly optimized mixed flow turbine stage.
This new design had the characteristics of both radial and axial machines that offered a better match to compressor, pushing the peak efficiency of turbine to match up with the peak efficiency of compressors, when they operate on an engine. Innovations by Cummins were aimed at improving the overall efficiency of turbochargers.
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The Bottom Line
Turbochargers started gaining traction in Europe in the early 1980s, when taxes favored diesel fuel causing a diesel-engine boom. Thanks to innovation in the last few years, these devices now offer greater fuel-efficiency. Modern units have sophisticated design and neither excessive heat nor turbo lag continue to be major issue. In fact, an increasing number of people have started looking for turbocharged engines in their vehicles.