Turbocharger company Garrett has just announced that it's planning to launch the first electric turbocharger for production vehicles, arriving to the market in 2021. The company says that the new turbo is yet another way to help boost the efficiency of the internal combustion engine.
It wasn't long ago that the idea of the electric turbocharger was more of a joke, reserved for snake-oil-like commercials on early morning or late-night TV. That was before the adoption of the 48-volt electrical system by automakers, however, which has changed the amount of power that automotive systems have to use, quadrupling the wattage while maintaining the same wire size and current.
This has allowed Garrett to develop what it calls the E-Turbo. Like a conventional turbocharger, it has a turbine wheel in the exhaust that spins a compressor wheel in the intake, using waste exhaust heat to force more air into the engine. But the innovation is between the turbines.
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Garrett has put a small electric motor on the shaft that runs between the two halves of the turbocharger. That allows for the electric motor to spin up the turbo more quickly, adding boost immediately from idle and both eliminating turbo lag and freeing automakers from the restraint of sizing the turbo for off-idle acceleration, Garrett says, which lets the engine use a turbo that's more efficient at normal operating speeds. The other benefit is that the E-Turbo can actually recover energy from the engine when more boost isn't needed. That, Garrett says, allows the turbo to be used to help recharge the mild-hybrid battery.
Electric superchargers aren't new, Audi uses one to jump-start the turbos on many of its 48V cars, but this E-Turbo saves the automaker from adding a separate component and system into the intake and exhaust paths. Garrett said that the E-Turbo in testing could get the engine to target torque in 1 second vs 4.5 seconds for a conventional turbo, and that it could increase power and torque while reducing emissions. The emissions reduction is still "under investigation," the company says.
So the important part, what card could be getting the E-Turbo first? Garrett says the company "has 10 active programs in the three biggest auto markets in the world in varying vehicle segments," but doesn't specify the automakers. A quick look at their site shows some likely candidates, however. They are currently running development cars including a Jaguar F-Pace and an Audi Q7 both wearing 48V mild-hybrid E-Turbo stickers. The technology seems like it could be a fit for any automakers working on 48V, which would include BMW and Mercedes-Benz. FCA is also adding a 48V system to several models, including the Ram 1500, though they aren't turbocharged.