Superchargers Will Replace Turbochargers In The Fight For MPG

Interview

The answer to Ferrari's soft exhaust notes and lagging turbochargers.

In the 1950s, under the pressure of needing to account for starters that could crank engines with higher compression ratios, the auto industry got rid of the 6v electrical system and adopted the 12v system. It has done well ever since, powering the complex electrical gadgets like ECUs, infotainment systems, traction control, and more in modern cars. Some power hungry cars like high-end luxury cars and hybrids already feature the technology, but as Detroit Free Press (DFP) Reports, we are likely to soon begin seeing it on our everyday vehicles.

On initial impression, it may seem like the reason for the shift is that cars are getting more complex, and that’s not exactly wrong. It’s just that it's more accurate to say that the rise in complexity has to do with the need to adhere to more stringent emissions regulations. While on a ride with Matti Vint, the powertrain R&D director for Valeo, DFP was able to witness the benefits of the technology first hand. The 48v system, which requires thicker copper wiring that adds more weight, allows automakers to use superchargers as fuel saving technology. Usually, superchargers use power from the engine to work, but a 48v system allows for the battery to drive the supercharger.

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The benefits to this are huge because they allow for the same outcomes as turbocharged engines but without the annoying lag. As one might expect, this is a good thing for gearheads too. "The initial conversion will be driven by the need to make vehicles that are fun to drive,” says Vint. A 48v system also allows automakers to replace belt-driven devices like water pumps and a/c compressors with electric motors to save fuel. It also allows for stop-start systems to become more sophisticated, extending operation past stoplights and onto freeways when the car is coasting. Such a system would also enable a car to become a mild hybrid by using a standard sized car battery without adding all of the expensive hybrid hardware.

The shift to 48v systems will be gradual, but automakers like Mercedes are already adding these systems to upcoming vehicles. Valeo has chosen to be a catalyst for the shift because it expects that by 2026, half of all vehicles on the road will have their downsized engines supplemented by turbochargers or electric superchargers. If this takes hold, then you can kiss turbo lag goodbye and say hello to the unencumbered bellow of a Ferrari engine on the 488 GTB's replacement.

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