Turbochargers: The New Trend in Fuel Economy

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In the past few years, the auto world has witnessed a technological boom aimed at decreasing fuel consumption. Despite the fact that electric vehicles are taking over the United States, there’s been another technology revolutionizing the market. What once used to be just a feature to increase a car’s speed, is now one of the most popular ways to boost fuel economy.

Turbochargers: The New Trend in Fuel Economy

Before they were just a niche technology. Today, many automakers proclaim them as the solution to increasing power while decreasing fuel consumption. How is it possible?

The Effect of Turbochargers

The engine power depends on the amounts of air and fuel forced into the cylinders. In its essence, a turbocharger works as a pump that compresses the air flowing into the engine. The advantage of compressing the air is that it lets the engine squeeze more air into the cylinder. Thus, the turbocharged engine produces more power than the same engine without charging.

To achieve this power boost, the turbocharger uses the exhaust flow from the engine, reusing otherwise wasted pressure and energy. The turbocharger allows for an engine with a smaller capacity to achieve the same performance as a larger engine but with less fuel. This factor allows automakers to use engines with six cylinders instead of eight, or four instead of six.

The practice has proved that a downsized engine can reduce fuel consumption and emissions by up to 30% compared to conventional technology. Some manufacturers are already thinking of additional ways to increase efficiency in turbocharged engines.

The Rise of Turbochargers

Automakers will be facing new regulations on fuel economy in the years to come, and they are looking for ways to meet these requirements. One of the EPA regulations imposes stricter mileage standards for newly manufactured vehicles ( 2016 to 2025 model years). The new standard aims for an average of 54.5 mpg by 2025, an increase of about 50 percent.

Essentially, a turbocharger allows the automakers to substitute a bigger engine with a smaller and more fuel-efficient one, without sacrificing power. This is what makes turbochargers a desirable solution. Many automakers have adopted the technology, and are now using it in vehicles of all sizes – from compacts to larger vehicles, and even trucks. Ford started calling their turbocharged engines “EcoBoost” long before this was a hype.

In 2015, a little over 20 percent of engines were turbocharged.  Four years earlier, this percentage was less than 7. They say that by 2025, a surprising 80 percent of new cars will run on turbocharged engines. The market for turbochargers is expected to reach $19 billion by 2022.

Some experts say that turbochargers have had an unplanned effect on electric vehicles thanks to their efficiency. Some even consider them a potential threat that might slow down the mass adaptation of EVs.

The Future of Turbocharges

Today, automakers like Ford, Dodge, and Chrysler offer an optional turbo to the new car engines.  You can buy a Ford Fusion of Chevrolet Malibu with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine instead of a traditional V6. What consumers value is that they can choose the way they want to drive, and when they drive with the right amount of power, they do get the efficiency.

Even the traditionally skeptical pick-up truck fans are switching to turbocharged engines. The Ford-F series for, example, is almost entirely using turbocharged engines with six cylinders with the power of eight. In 2015, nearly half of the trucks sold had downsized engines. Yet, despite the effect this trend has had in Europe and the USA, Japanese automakers are still focusing on hybrids.

After all, it is the consumer who decides what best works for them. Hybrids, electric vehicles, internal-combustion engines could all have certain benefits that attract the end user. All this trend proves is that there is still a lot to improve in internal-combustion engines.

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About the Author:

Dilyana Dobrinova is a nature & travel enthusiast. With a heart for books, scarves and vintage. Dilyana feels most inspired with a cup of tea in her hand and mellow jazz in the background. She holds an M.A. in International Marketing Management from the Berlin School of Economics and Law in Germany, and two B.As. in Journalism & Mass Communication and Business Administration.
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