Audi will launch a production car that uses Valeo’s electric supercharger next year. Other automakers are likely to follow as talks are now ongoing with several companies. This electric supercharger boosts an engine's acceleration while saving fuel. Valeo, which is based in France, didn’t name which Audi model this supercharger will be in but if reports are to be believed, it will be fitted on the Audi Q7 premium SUV.
Valeo's Chief Operating Officer Christophe Perillat-Piratoine said that the French company is talking to several automakers about this technology; however, he didn’t name these brands. Valeo's electric supercharger removes the lag time in the acceleration of cars that use turbocharged engines. Valeo’s system is different from that of a turbocharger, which runs off exhaust gases.
Valeo’s system provides the engine with an almost instantaneous air flow to increase acceleration via an electric motor. Fuel consumption is cut by 7-20%, Valeo claims.
One disadvantage is that it costs more and there’s more power consumed. According to Perillat-Piratoine, Valeo is ahead of other suppliers in terms of supercharger technology by one or two years. When interviewed by Automotive News Europe, Perillat-Piratoine said that the market was created by Valeo while other suppliers are expected to just follow.
Honeywell, which is estimated to have a 34% share of the light vehicle turbocharger market in the world, refers to the technology as an e-charger or an electrically driven compressor. In an Automotive News Europe report, Honeywell Turbo Technologies vice president for product development Gavin Donkin said that the supplier anticipates that the market will get its version of the system between 2017 and 2019.
Since e-chargers utilize an electric motor to run a separate compressor, the physics of exhaust gases do not hold back the system, Donkin explained. He added that there can be a “very, very good transient response [very little turbo lag] at the low end of the engine speed.”
Andrew Wrobel, a senior analyst for IHS Automotive, said that the decline in turbo lag enables power to be utilized at lower RPM, which is expected to boost fuel economy and provide a considerable improvement in drivability.
He also said that systems similar to this have been successfully tested on racecars in the LMP1 series. Wrobel said that Valeo’s electric supercharger will be going up against hybrid powertrains that make use of electric motors to lessen turbo lag.
He explained further that performance hybrids like the McLaren P1, Porsche 918, Ferrari LaFerrari, and the lower-cost Acura NSX make use of or utilize a hybrid system to improve the performance and fuel economy.
However, the actual fuel-saving benefits are uncertain and could vary based on the powertrain’s tuning. Wrobel shared that similar systems may be used on higher-production, non-performance vehicles that are tuned to be more frugal rather than be more powerful and faster.
BMW’s i8 plug-in hybrid supercar features a system that has the same function as Valeo’s supercharger. BMW spokesman Matthew Russell said that the BMW i8 is equipped with a starter-generator that can deliver 11 hp and 38 foot pounds (51.5 newton meters) during engine startup.
He added that the output of the starter-generator is used to offset perceived lag from the comparatively large turbocharger fit to the i8's 1.5-liter three-cylinder gasoline engine.