Over the last few decades, we have been seeing more and more vehicles put larger and larger numbers in front of the “mph” designation on the little stickers in the window. New technologies such as the use of ethanol, electric motors, hybrid technology, and more have become commonplace within nearly every automotive brand. Those that have no adapted and risen to the challenge of better-performing, more economical vehicles have fallen behind and are playing catch up.
Many companies are addressing new ways to improve fuel economy and decrease the impact on our environment. Hydrogen fuel-cell technology, micro-turbine engines, advancement in diesel technology from companies like Mercedes-Benz, and more innovations in the hybrid and gasoline powered worlds have provide many new inroads to pave the way toward the future of fuel economy. A simpler, yet slightly more costly solution is to find a vehicle with a turbocharger. A turbocharger, you say? That sounds much more expensive. How can that be helpful? I’m glad you asked.
Although a turbocharger can cost more for the initial purchase of a new vehicle as well as pricier repairs, this type of engine could save your fuel economy today. The difference between a turbocharged engine and your current engine is really just a matter of oxygen. In non-turbocharge engines, the main factor that limits the amount of power put forth by the engine is the limited amount of oxygen that is taken into engine and pressurized. Your basic gasoline engine requires a 14:1 air-to-fuel ratio, giving you the limited amount of horsepower and torque that your current vehicle pushes out. With a different kind of air pump, called a turbocharger, the incoming air is much more condensed, increasing the amount of pressure exerted, increasing the amount of power that is displaced in an engine. The turbocharger only functions when the engine requires more power, which gives the vehicle an extra push.
The turbochargers are more expensive for the consumer, but so are most advancements to increase fuel economy throughout the automotive industry. Jaguar has plans to place a much smaller, 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine in its latest hybrid supercar. Mercedes-Benz uses twin turbochargers for many of its higher-end performance cars, such as the S-Class and the CL-Class. Yes, these are both luxury European automotive brands, but the fact is, the automotive industry is trying to find ways to provide all of its customers with better fuel economy at any cost. Hopefully one day all of our vehicles will be able to achieve 65 mpg, but until then, we will have to find ways to help ourselves, and a turbocharger could be a way.