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Exploring How Turbochargers Have Improved Over Time

Exploring How Turbochargers Have Improved Over Time

Many people use turbochargers to improve their vehicles, and thanks to the great minds of engineers, the technology of turbos continues to evolve. This device has an interesting history of development and progression, and from its past, we may gauge how it will advance into the future. Read on to learn more about how turbos improved over time and how they’ve become better machines throughout the years.

The Beginning of an Idea

The idea for turbochargers originates from the minds of Gottlieb Daimler and Rudolf Diesel, late nineteenth-century German engineers. Both were tinkering with the idea of forced induction. They wanted to implement the idea of a gear-driven pump into the recently invented automobiles and boost their power output while lowering fuel consumption.

However, what would eventually become the turbocharger wouldn’t gain traction until 1905 when Swiss engineer Alfred Buchi gained a patent for a compressor for exhaust gases in diesel engines. It took two decades for Buchi’s invention to take shape, and in 1925 the first device to increase power in a diesel engine from exhaust came to be.

The First Turbosupercharger

The earliest forms of turbochargers were turbosuperchargers and, later, superchargers. These early models increased power in a diesel engine by at least 40 percent.

As General Electric mass-produced these wonderful machines, more people enjoyed the benefits they provided for their engines. This popularity later led to more improved models that would change the capabilities of other vehicles by land, sea, and air.

Turbocharged Boats and Planes

Once people realized that turbochargers enhanced diesel engines, the idea to implement them in diesel vehicles such as planes and boats followed. A LaPere bi-plane was the test subject for the first turbocharged plane, and while it took many years for the idea to reach fruition, it led to many advancements.

Each test spurred more thoughts for improvement of how the turbo could support better performance in different engines and its function in higher altitudes. This innovation later spread to marine vehicles such as the Danzig, a German passenger liner with a 10-cylinder engine that could produce 2,500 hp instead of the standard 1,750 hp. While more engines received the improvements that came with turbo, the arrival of new materials created opportunities for the turbo itself to advance.

Implementing Better Metals

As automotive innovation continued to grow, certain metals, such as iron, nickel, and copper, became available for use. While these metals were reliable, they lacked the lightweight and durability turbos are notorious for. Fortunately, stainless steel became a popularized metal for engines and later spread to a valuable material in turbocharger manufacturing.

Introducing this new material would change the value of turbos and how they benefit vehicles. The size of turbos at this time made them ineffective in cars but effective in many vehicles for war, such as fighter planes and combat-ready boats. Their use in vehicles would come soon after World War II.

The Rise of Turbocharged Cars

After the war, turbos became a valuable tool in any vehicle with an engine. Engineers began adjusting to decrease the size of the turbo’s design to ensure it could fit in a car’s engine. In 1962, the first turbocharged cars, the Chevrolet Corvair Monza and the Oldsmobile Jetfire, came into the world.

These vehicles boasted a substantial boost in horsepower, with each attaining horsepower near 200 hp. There were challenges for the first models of turbos for cars. Engine knock was a difficult obstacle to overcome, and it took many tests of different fluids to avoid it, including a water-rocket fuel mixture.

During the same decade, the International Harvester Scout became the next evolutionary step in turbocharging, with a 2.5-liter engine that would use regular-grade petrol without the risk of engine knock. As turbos improved over time, they became more commercialized, and automotive brands would take a liking to their performance boosting and enhance them for different purposes.

Improvements for the Racetrack

A boost in power and less fuel usage paired well with a growing fondness for racing cars amongst the general population. Many car brands began implementing turbos into their racing vehicles regularly. Turbos for motorsports had their performance in engines enhanced to support the needed improvements for the racetrack.

Some of the first vehicles to race had power outputs as high as 1,000 hp, thanks to the tremendous abilities of the installed turbochargers. The 1970s and 1980s were a time of great growth for many automotive-related innovations, and these decades were an important time for turbochargers to improve. Along with the oil crisis at the time, there was also a growing concern for the environment that would lead turbos to play a significant role for many car owners.

Growing Concerns of Emissions

In the 1980s and 1990s, more people became aware of the effects of greenhouse gases and grew concerned about their vehicles’ emissions. Car manufacturers leaned into the eco-friendly aspect of turbos and how they would prevent more emissions.

More companies began implementing turbos and improving them to fit into more cars and use engine exhaust more efficiently. At this time, turbos used various materials in their composition, such as titanium and nickel alloys, along with stainless steel to ensure longevity in their function. Many people purchased turbo-powered cars to reduce emissions and ensure they reduced their carbon footprint while enjoying the added benefit of increased horsepower.

Improvements in Actuators

The many intricate parts of a turbocharger include the actuator, which also saw improvements. While many turbos used hydraulic and pneumatic actuators during the first few decades after their implementation in vehicles, electric actuators became popular in turbos after WWII. The electric actuator became a great addition to turbos and improved energy usage. Alongside the need to reduce emissions came a need for less energy consumption.

Electric actuators reduce energy consumption thanks to their control options for settings such as closed-loop and proportional control. Programming technology continued evolving during the late twentieth century, and the electric actuator was what the turbocharger needed to spring into popularity.

The Invention of the Twin Turbo

Many luxury vehicles use twin turbos for the best performance. Using a twin-turbo reduces boost lag in a vehicle and provides faster power with four cylinders of an engine compared to the eight that a single turbo needs.

Because of the extra materials needed for the twin-turbo, there is a higher price tag that most elite car brands will pay to improve their fleet. This turbocharger innovation was a smash hit in the 1980s when Maserati produced the first twin-turbo car, the Biturbo. Many other brands wanted to keep up with the newest implementation in turbo technology, and many of their engineers focused on manufacturing and implementing it.

Common Technology We Use Now

The technology we use in turbos now involves the solutions and results of many tests and inventive thinking. The numerous materials, different types, and evolving turbo technology give us opportunities for better driving and powerful cars.

At TurboTurbos, we have new turbos for sale and continue to sell the most innovative products to help improve your vehicle’s performance. As time passes, there will continue to be more improvements in turbocharger technology, and its evolution will take engines to another exciting level.


Exploring How Turbochargers Have Improved Over Time

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