The supercharger — long ago blown away by the technology of turbochargers — finally may be on the verge of finding its place in the rapidly changing world of powertrain technology.
Instead of competing with turbochargers as a means of blasting a denser mixture of fuel and air into an engine, the supercharger could be used in tandem with it, an equal partner, like Laurel was to Hardy or Lennon was to McCartney.
Power management supplier Eaton has been re-engineering the supercharger, removing weight, reducing friction and adding electric motors. Dan Ouwenga, Eaton's North American engineering manager, spoke with Staff Reporter Richard Truett.
Q: Eaton has developed an electrically assisted variable speed, or EAVS, supercharger that uses an electric motor and can be used in gasoline-electric hybrids. Are there any customers for it?
A: We're working with a lot of customers. I can't comment on any production programs, but they are in the hands of many customers.
Is the technology ready for production, or will the EAVS supercharger have to be integrated into the engine and vehicle at program start?
Some of the latest integrations we've done have given the OEMs control over that issue. Effectively, our designs have been changed to make the integration easier and so we're ready for when an OEM decides to launch.
Does EAVS require 48 volts?
To get the full benefits, yes. You need the additional energy. But on 12 volts, you can get the variable speed benefits.
Does the electric supercharger make sense on fuel cell vehicles, which need to move large volumes of air?
There are a lot of different ways automakers are looking at moving air through a fuel cell vehicle. The Toyota Mirai uses a supercharger.
We actually supply fuel cell prototypes with our partner Roush. They do a lot of fuel cell supercharger systems that they supply to manufacturers.