E-Turbochargers: What Are They & How Do They Work?

Performance lovers with internal combustion engines always use a turbocharger or supercharger to improve fuel efficiency and performance.

With the advent of modern technology, the automotive industry is beginning to introduce electric turbos. But what are they? Read on and find out what ingenious technology is behind this name.

Conventional Turbocharger

The standard turbocharger increases the engine’s power through the forced induction of compressed air. Since an internal combustion engine generates locomotion by burning a fuel-air mixture, the burning rate of this mixture determines the engine power. To achieve this, the turbo uses hot exhaust gasses to spin the turbine that compresses the air going to the engine.

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Electric Turbocharger

An electric turbocharger is an alternative to mechanical turbos. It is a compressor side paired with an electric motor.

An electric turbo uses electricity to spin the turbine wheel inside the turbocharger. That spinning action causes air to move through the compressor wheel, which increases the pressure and volume of the air entering the combustion chamber.

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How Do Electric Boosters Work?

A typical electric turbocharger consists of two main components: a turbine wheel and a compressor wheel. The turbine wheel spins when exposed to exhaust gasses from the engine. As the turbine wheel spins, it turns a shaft connected to the compressor wheel.

When the compressor wheel starts turning, it draws air into the intake manifold. The increased volume of air allows the engine to run more efficiently.

What’s the Difference?

An electric turbo offers the best of both worlds: the brutal efficiency of a fully active turbocharger without that turbo lag that a supercharger brings to the table.

Like its non-electric counterpart, the E-turbo uses hot exhaust gasses generated by the engine while driving the vehicle.

Unlike the conventional turbo, it includes a small air compressor powered by an electric motor to provide the compressed air needed to increase engine power.

Advantages and Disadvantages

E-Turbo Pros

  • Turbo Lag

E-booster can generate a boost when exhaust-gas energy is low, which puts behind the turbo lag with a fast response to the accelerator.

  • Engine Power

Unlike a supercharger, electric turbos are not active all the time. Therefore, they do not reduce engine power while providing the same torque level regardless of engine speed.

An electric turbocharger can avoid sapping engine power to keep it going in the first place. Thus, increasing the obtained power by activating the device.

  • Efficiency

E-boosters have the advantage of self-deactivation when not needed, for example, during long journeys at a constant speed. That allows the engine to run at higher efficiency and save fuel in the long run.

  • Less Space

An E-turbo takes up much less space and achieves the effect of the compressor part of the turbo and the supercharge without losing power.

  • Carbon Footprint

Electric turbos also reduce overall CO2 emissions.

E-Turbo Cons

  • Fuel Consumption

Electric turbos are still new, so all the shortcomings of this advanced technology have not been solved. The electric turbo aims at increasing vehicle performance, and a reduction in fuel consumption is not its primary goal, so it will likely result in an increase. However, it’s not as much as with a conventional turbo or supercharger.

  • Cost

Given its status as an emerging technology, electric supercharging will remain relatively expensive for some time.

  • Reliability

Its reliability is also largely untested, given the lack of data, which in turn is a result of limited application.

What Brands Are Using E-Boosters?

Although the e-booster technology comes from Formula 1, many brands are adding it to their production line.

Mercedes comes at the head of the list after cooperating with Garrett to install electric turbos to the Mercedes AMG.

Audi also uses e-boosters to eliminate turbo lags and improve engine responsiveness.

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