Could Future Turbochargers Have Hybrid Tech?

Forced induction is set to get even more popular, and hybrid turbochargers could be tomorrow’s new black.

Experts say within five years half the world’s light-duty vehicles - cars, basically - will be turbocharged.

But maybe not turbocharged as we know it.

Turbochargers have a turbine in the exhaust connected by a shaft to a compressor in the inlet. So the otherwise wasted energy in the exhaust literally pumps up the pressure in the inlet, increasing economy and performance. 

Hybrid Turbocharger 2.jpg

But if you put an electric motor between the turbine and the compressor, you can spin up the compressor whenever you want and eliminate turbo lag. At moderate rpm the exhaust gas takes over, and at high revs (instead of wasting the excess exhaust energy - through a wastegate) the electric motor could be used to generate electricity, just like a hybrid.

Honeywell is working on that now (right), along with advanced intercoolers between turbo stages, and also water injection to allow future boost pressures as high as 36psi - with impeller speeds approaching a brain-bending 300,000rpm and air rocketing through the intake just below mach 1. There’s gunna be a lot going on ‘down there’.

So it seems tomorrow’s 1.2-litre engines could easily go like today’s 2.0-litres. So watch this space. The new turbo tech will certainly place atmo engines under pressure. (Sorry.)


Q&A, TechJohn CadoganComment