Question is, will it ever make production?
Automakers are constantly innovating. Not doing so means eventual doom. Innovating leads to patent submissions and, hopefully, patent approvals. One of the latest patent submissions comes from Ford and, as uncovered by Auto Guide, it's quite ingenious. The American automaker has filed a patent for an electric supercharger. Sounds pretty simple enough, right? After all, many automakers are already developing hybrid electric turbochargers.
However, this electric supercharger features a valve that's able to block the passageway to the engine, thus re-directing the compressed air to a separate sealed section, enabling it to be used as a compressed air source, or even a vacuum.
The patent states that "Methods and systems are provided for operating an electric supercharger as an on-board air pump and/or vacuum pump. During conditions when a vehicle is not being propelled and the vehicle engine is idling, a portion of an air intake passage is sealed and the supercharger is operated to deliver compressed air into the sealed portion.
Compressed air can then be picked up directly from the sealed portion for use in tire inflation, or picked up via an ejector to provide vacuum for vacuum actuators." Translation for us non-engineers: this electric supercharger produces enough extra compressed air for additional uses. One example Auto Guide pointed out is a tire inflator, obviously assuming the vehicle is not in motion during use.
Another system capability mentioned is that it can be used to operate a vehicle's air suspension or even to operate a brake booster. Sounds pretty cool, but why is Ford interested in having this particular technology in the first place? Because it can save money. Ford can use this electric supercharger for multiple vehicular purposes instead of requiring the use of a separate system(s). But the big question is whether or not this electric supercharger, or rather this particular electric supercharger, will ever appear on a production vehicle?
We obviously don't have an answer for that, but considering Ford plans to put even greater emphasis on its SUV and truck lineup in the coming years, an electric supercharger with a compressed air extra storage unit could be particularly useful. What if you're off-roading and suddenly your F-150's tire pressure monitoring system indicates at least one of the vehicle's tires needs attention. You could be far from a gas station, but no matter. The electric supercharger has got your back.