The promise of electric superchargers

Valeo e-charger

Superchargers and turbochargers are mechanical air compressors that boost an engine’s power output. They do this by allowing the engine to swallow more oxygen, in turn letting it burn more fuel. Forced induction, as this compressed-air approach is known, is important when it comes to downsizing – using a smaller, lighter engine to deliver the same performance as a bigger, heavier one.

Now a new breed of compressor is starting to appear that is driven by an electric motor. Quicker to respond than either a turbo or supercharger, and much easier to connect to the engine, an electric supercharger (or e-charger) can help to eliminate the problem of turbo-lag in a very simple and efficient fashion. Paired with a large, conventional turbocharger, an e-charger offers huge potential for improving fuel economy, emissions, peak power output and smooth power delivery.

I spoke to three pioneers of the e-charger approach, for a feature published by Engine Technology International: Michel Forissier, research and development director at Valeo Powertrain Systems; Mike Bassett, chief research engineer at Mahle Powertrain; and Andy Dickinson, a senior product development manager at Controlled Power Technologies.

Key quote
“We propose a simple e-compressor together with a simple turbo – there is no need any more for variable geometry or variable nozzle technology, which cost a lot of money”
Michel Forissier, research and development director, Valeo Powertrain Systems