Turbochargers are rapidly emerging as the choice for automakers that need moderately priced, off-the-shelf technology to meet corporate average fuel economy targets.
By 2015, as many as 25 percent of all light vehicles sold in the United States will be turbocharged, up from 8 percent this year, predicts J.D. Power and Associates.
Turbochargers "will be used by nearly all major carmakers," says Mike Omotoso, J.D. Power's senior manager of global power trains. "The technology has been around for a long time, and it's relatively cheap compared with hybrids" and electric vehicles.
Ford Motor Co. says it will offer EcoBoost turbocharged engines on 90 percent of its North American models within a couple of years. Other automakers are stepping up, too. J.D. Power predicts General Motors Co., Chrysler Group, Volkswagen AG, and BMW AG will rely heavily on turbochargers.
"We see turbochargers being adopted across the board," in big pickups, small cars and everything in between, says Omotoso.
Pushed by CAFE Automakers are adopting turbochargers to meet CAFE standards that will rise to 35.5 mpg by 2016. By pairing turbos with smaller engines, automakers can reduce fuel use without impairing performance.
Turbochargers are auxiliary air pumps powered by the force of exhaust gases. They can improve the efficiency of engines by as much as 20 percent. Because turbos are powered by otherwise useless gases, engineers think of turbos as delivering free power--power that can replace that lost by going, say, from a V-8 to a V-6.
Take the 2011 Ford F-150. Alongside the recently introduced, naturally aspirated 5.0- and 6.2-liter V-8 engines, Ford is offering its first turbocharged engine for a light truck. The F-150's turbo, which is based on the 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V-6 found in the Ford Taurus SHO sedan, is enhanced significantly to meet truck durability requirements. … Read more