Who doesn't love a good turbocharged engine? Whether you have a small or big engine under the hood, a turbo can make all the difference as it can deliver better performance and quicker acceleration. But there's one thing that drivers often have to contend with when driving turbocharged cars, 'turbo lag'.
Unlike superchargers that are belt-driven by the engine, a turbo relies on an engine's exhaust gases for it to actually spool up and deliver boost. Some have opted to use various setups/systems like twin-turbo, sequential turbo, as well as variable geometry turbos to eliminate lag. While these often help reduce lag, there is still some delay to contend with before boost kicks in.
Mercedes-AMG wants to eliminate the lag entirely by developing an electric turbocharger. As part of the company's electrification program, the new electric turbocharger is aimed at bridging the gap between a small turbo that spins faster but has a lower boost and a bigger turbocharger which delivers a bigger boost but suffers greater turbo lag.
At the center of this turbocharging system is a slim electric motor that is integrated directly within the turbo itself. It is placed on the charger shaft between the turbine wheel on the 'hot side' of a turbo and the compressor wheel on the fresh airside. With the electric motor in place, it can immediately spin the compressor wheel even before the exhaust gas spools it up.
This translates to a significant improvement in the turbocharger system since it will provide an immediate response from idle speed and across the entire engine rev range. The overall result is that the engine responds faster to accelerator and turbo input – eliminating the dreaded turbo lag entirely according to Mercedes-AMG. Interestingly, the electric turbo is also designed to maintain boost pressure at all times even if the driver takes their foot off the accelerator or presses on the brake pedal, similar to the anti-lag system used in race cars.
“With this move, we are strategically supplementing our modular technology and tailoring it to our performance requirements. In a first step this includes the electrified turbocharger - an example of the transfer of Formula 1 technology to the road, something with which we will take turbocharged combustion engines to a previously unattainable level of agility,” said Tobias Moers, Chairman of The Board of Management of Mercedes-AMG (who will soon become the new CEO of Aston Martin effective Aug 1, 2020).
The new electric turbocharger will soon be used on a production Mercedes-AMG. The brand has yet to state what model it will be, but they did say the turbo system will only work on a 48V electrical system. This could mean that the new electric turbo will be used on a turbo-hybrid model.
With Mercedes-AMG's new turbo capable of spinning up to 170,000 rpm, it has a very high rate of airflow. Combined with the electric motor, and it might just change how turbochargers will work in the future. For now, we can only imagine what it feels like to drive a turbocharged car without having to experience turbo lag.