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Monday, June 24, 2013

Turbos vs Hybrids?

Another guest post by Mr. Liu, as this ties well with the previous post. Original draft May 8, 2013 with editing by Smitka (the prof)

Forced induction provided by turbochargers and superchargers is a nice way to get more power out of an engine with a fixed displacement. The manufacturers of this technology are a fairly concentrated group, however, which is a worry to OEM's. If the supply of these forced induction products is too concentrated with a few select manufacturers, then there is a worry that if demand for blowers goes up substantially, then the suppliers will have undue leverage in price setting. Therefore, OEM's are encouraging other suppliers to enter the market.

...Toyota is hedging its bets ... with both a turbo and a hybrid ...

Turbocharging, which uses exhaust gasses to force a blower thereby raising compression ratios, is used on many vehicles to increase power without sacrificing fuel economy. BMW's Efficient Dynamics system relies upon it and other manufactures employ the same principles in their vehicles. The technology has the potential of providing huge power gains, however there is the issue of turbo lag, namely the lack of instantaneous full-power throttle response. Supercharging, which can be done with either an added engine belt (an detriment to fuel economy) or with an electric motor is a way to achieve power gains with instantaneous response behind the pedal.

Now Toyota is entering the fray — see a June 24, 2013 Automotive News article by Mark Rechtin. I [Smitka] don't know whether Toyota offers other turbos, but this article notes that a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine will power a late 2014 Lexus model, the NX200t. In this Toyota is following in the footsteps BMW, Cadillac and Mercedes, with a several year lag. [I owned a 1998 turbocharged Volvo; even small-car maker Suzuki is using turbos, Nikkei TechOn here notes a new model will get 52 mpg.]

More interesting, Toyota will also produce a hybrid model, the NX300h. As I read it, this is a hedge on Toyota's hybrid strategy: fuel efficiency from a smaller engine rather than putting in a second (electric = hybrid) powertrain. So which costs less? Surely not the hybrid!

Source: WardsAuto.com

Tyler Kaelin wrote: Although the turbochargers and superchargers themselves might be constrained to a few companies, they are creating opportunities for many other companies. Forced induction puts greater strain on an engine. To handle this added strain other parts need to be upgraded as well. That is where companies like Federal Mogul come in, designing parts to compliment forced induction.

The Prof wrote: Turbocharger innovations have led to numerous PACE awards over the past 5 years. And concentrated it is: the dominant players are two in number, BorgWarner and Honeywell. New entrants would be hard-pressed to match them even if OEMs forced the two leaders to license their patents, because so much of their lead comes from the ability to design products to specific engines, and from production skills protected by trade secrets – the OEMs can’t force BW and Honeywell to share things they don’t know about.

Note the same issue comes up with the Chinese partners in various joint venture arrangements – claims that they invite the stealing of technology is in contrast to complaints that JV partners fail to transfer technology. The underlying reality is that even if you could buy [steal!] blueprints, you still wouldn't be able to make it in a cost-effective and high quality manner, much less provide design and technology advice to your customers.

Anyway, here is a set of links to recent PACE award-winning turbocharger innovations:

PACE Award Winners: Turbos [additional turbo innovations were finalists]