Audi is first automaker to use electric turbocharger in production car

Article by Christian A., on May 20, 2015

Audi will use electrically boosted turbocharging in a mass-production model beginning in 2016 – the first automaker to make use of this emerging technology. It’s likely that Ford and Honda will follow this trend. This movement in the industry will give a boost to Valeo (the supplier for Audi’s electric supercharger), Honeywell, and BorgWarner.

Traditional turbo lag is reduced while raising power and lowering fuel use when air is pushed by electrically driven compressors toward a standard turbocharger from very low revolutions. Not everyone is convinced though. Other brands, including BMW, believe that regular turbo technology leads to the same outcome.

Honeywell has acknowledged that to achieve the maximum benefits, the electrified turbos will necessitate a move to more expensive 48-volt vehicle structures from the present generation’s conventional 12-volt solutions. When interviewed by Automotive News Europe, Audi r&d boss Ulrich Hackenberg said that this type of turbocharger is “a very important future technology.”

He shared that the e-charger will be first used in a version of the new Audi Q7 flagship SUV that will probably get a badge as the SQ7. Hackenberg said at last March’s annual press conference that Audi will the TDI [diesel] engines will have an electrically driven compressor as standard equipment. He didn’t give a timeframe on how this technology will be rolled out.

This technology was shown last year on Audi’s RS 5 TDI concept, which generated an increase in power from 313hp to 385hp from a standard 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engine. Audi had said that this technology can also be used on gasoline engines. Ford has studied the possibility of using this technology on gasoline engines.

Recently, Ford made use of an electrically driven compressor to boost the power of its 1.0-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost engine to 156hp from 125hp. Valeo believes that the electric supercharger will catch on and other automakers will follow Audi.

In an interview with Automotive News Europe, Valeo COO Christophe Perillat-Piratoine said that other companies fall behind this technology by about 1 or 2 years. Honeywell has said that it will present a version of this system to the market between 2017 and 2019.

According to Gavin Donkin, Honeywell Turbo Technologies vice president for product development, e-chargers utilize an electric motor to drive a separate compressor so the system is not held back by the physics of exhaust gases.

As a result, there’s minimal turbo lag at low engine speed. It’s a highly complex process to make sure that the e-compressor works in tandem with the turbo. Donkin said a bigger issue is that a considerable amount of electric power is required by the e-chargers and e-turbos.

This is why automakers may have to shift to a 48-volt architecture. Donkin explained that most automakers agree that at 48 volts, the project can be launched but that at 12 volts, the benefit is “relatively marginal.” Hackenberg estimates that to provide the required power of 7-8 kilowatts, there has to be a 48-volt system.

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