RE: PH Origins: Turbocharging

RE: PH Origins: Turbocharging

Monday 9th July

PH Origins: Turbocharging

How the quest for improved engine efficiency led to the development of one of the preferred power-adding systems



In the late 1800s, as more internal combustion engines began coughing into life, engineers began investigating the concept of forced induction.

Even though seemingly somewhat ahead of the curve, given that the internal combustion engine was in its infancy, it was a logical step. After all, it was understood that getting more air into the combustion chamber meant more oxygen was present - so more fuel could be burnt, producing more power.

Using forced induction also provided a workaround to issues such as overly small valves, resulting in a considerable focus on supercharging. By 1902, Louis Renault - one of the founders of Renault - had already patented a clutched engine-driven supercharger. This type of forced induction was effective but efficiency was not its forte, as to be driven effectively it often required considerable power.

Engineer Alfred Büchi, born in Switzerland in 1879, had become interested in the concept of improving engine output and efficiency. He studied machine engineering in Zurich and, after graduating in 1903, moved to Belgium to work with stationary engine company Carels Frères.


While there, he aided in the development of a gas turbine. This project reputedly failed but Büchi then set about applying his experience with turbines and compressors to diesel engines, which were becoming increasingly prominent in industrial and marine applications.

His knowledge in this field led him to explore ways with which to recover energy from the exhaust gas of an engine. If this waste energy could be put to good use then the engine itself would become more efficient and powerful; Büchi consequently developed and applied for a patent for such a system, which featured an exhaust-driven turbine, in 1905.

This is often cited as marking the invention of the turbocharger - a compressor which, instead of being mechanically driven by the engine, is instead driven by the engine's waste gases. Büchi's initial patent did not represent such an innovation, though; instead, it describes what we would now recognise as a force-fed 'turbo-compound' engine.

The supercharged radial engine showcased in his patent did indeed feature a compressor and an exhaust turbine - but these both shared a common shaft with the engine, with the compressor being mounted in front of the engine and the turbine behind it. The turbine would recover waste energy from the exhaust gases and drive the shared shaft, instead of simply driving a standalone compressor. Nevertheless, this patent outlined many of the principles of turbocharging.


Büchi then joined industrial equipment and diesel engine manufacturer Sulzer Brothers in 1909 and, in the same year, reportedly proposed the concept of a standalone compressor-turbine unit. His forced induction systems were the key to boosting the output of Sulzer's diesels so, in 1911, the company opened a specialised 'turbomachinery' research department.

By the end of 1914, Sulzer's turbocharged diesel testbeds were showing vast hikes in output and efficiency - and the technology began being tentatively adopted. In the early 1920s, turbochargers began being utilised on production engines and, in 1926, the first two turbocharged diesel ships were launched - the MV Preussen and HS Hansetadt Danzig, featuring turbochargers designed and developed by Büchi.

Büchi was not alone in pursuing exhaust-driven compressors. French engineer Auguste Rateau, who specialised in developed and manufacturing turbomachinery - ranging from blowers for steel mills through to steam turbines - was in hot pursuit. Rateau, who had registered the rapid development of aircraft, realised that their increasing altitude would result in power tailing off as the air density decreased.

Consequently, in 1917, he proposed and patented what he described as an air compressor operated by the power remaining in the exhaust gases of the motor. 'My invention contemplates means whereby the power of the motor may be maintained,' said Rateau, 'at any desired constancy while operating an aeroplane at varying elevations.' Rateau's turbochargers are claimed to have been fitted to some Renault aviation engines, and flown, in 1918.


The US was also exploring this new technology, again in order to offset the degradation of engine performance at higher altitudes. Having recently entered World War I, and motivated by Rateau's developments, the government drafted in gas turbine specialist Sanford Moss in late 1917 to develop a suitable set-up for the new Liberty 'L-12' V12 - an engine which was hoped to outperform everything else on the market.

In 1918, Moss strapped his newly assembled turbocharger - then referred to as a 'turbosupercharger' - to the 350hp, 27-litre Liberty L-12. It was promptly carted to the top of Pikes Peak and proved its mettle; at 14,000ft the Liberty could produce a peak of almost 380hp, whereas in naturally aspirated form it would produce some 230hp at the same altitude.

Then, on 18 September 1918, Major Rudolph Schroeder flew a turbocharged Liberty-engined Packard Lepere LUSAC 11 to a new FAI World Record altitude of 31,020ft. For comparison, a twin-engined and supercharged AEG G.V had peaked at 20,000ft during trials in July. The Liberty-engined biplane would later exceed 40,000ft and, by 1922, turbocharged production engines such as the Napier Lion W12 began appearing on the market.

Engineer Earl Sherbondy, one of the founders of the Simplex Manufacturing Company and an expert in engine technology, had also predicted the necessity for turbocharging in the aviation market. Independently, he developed turbochargers that were similar to Rateau's. These seemingly went little further than a few trials in 1917 and 1918; Sherbondy did, however, later develop myriad turbocharger-related systems - such as aftercoolers, wastegates and duplex turbocharger configurations.


General Electric, which employed Moss at the time, ran with the concept of turbocharging wholeheartedly and - in collaboration with the US Army Air Corps - developed a substantial portfolio of turbochargers. The outbreak of World War II caused a surge in demand for improved high-altitude performance and outright speed from fighters and bombers alike, necessitating more and more powerful aviation engines - and development was rapid.

GE turbochargers were soon tucked into the nacelles and noses of several aircraft - including the B-17, B-24, B-29 and P-38. These setups were often compound, working in conjunction with an integral centrifugal supercharger; development culminated in the likes of the twin-turbocharged, supercharged 28-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-4360-51VDT Wasp Major. This 1.8-tonne, 71-litre behemoth produced a staggering 4,300hp.

The development of the jet engine soon curtailed interest in turbocharged, supercharged or compound-charged piston aviation engines. Fortunately, the technology had already transferred to yet another domain - automotive. Moss had reputedly tinkered with turbocharging for automotive applications in the early 1920s; in Germany, a turbocharger had also been fitted to a formerly supercharged Mercedes-Benz and, by the late 1930s, production of turbocharged diesel trucks began.

After the war, the battle-proven and output-improving concept of turbocharging began being adopted by numerous diesel engine manufacturers. Cummins drew much attention to the technology when, in 1952, it entered a turbocharged 6.6-litre diesel race car in the Indy 500. It secured pole position in qualifying, devastating its petrol-powered opponents, and also clocked the fastest one-lap average of 139.1mph. Debris from the track ultimately clogged the turbocharger's inlet during the race, though, and the car was sadly forced to retire.


Countless people were experimenting with turbocharging by this point but it took until 1962 for the first production turbocharged cars to arrive. General Motors had been busy developing smaller and more efficient cars, with downsized engines, including the likes of the Oldsmobile F-85 and Chevrolet Corvair. These were a direct response to the increasing threat from frugal overseas offerings, such as the Volkswagen Beetle.

Customers were still clamouring for more power, though, so - in order to avoid hikes in displacement while maintaining efficiency and competitiveness - Oldsmobile and Chevrolet decided to adopt turbocharging. The result was the Oldsmobile Jetfire and the Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder; the Corvair was unveiled in February 1962 at the Chicago Auto Show and the Jetfire followed shortly after, with it being introduced to the public in April at the New York Auto Show.

The Jetfire borrowed Buick's 3.5-litre all-aluminium V8 - the engine which would later become the Rover V8. It was also used in the standard F-85 but, unlike that application, in the Jetfire it was topped with an AiResearch T5 turbocharger. The net result was a stout 215hp and 300lb ft but Oldsmobile had retained the still-heady 10.25:1 compression of the naturally aspirated variant. A modern Focus RS, for comparison, has a compression ratio of 9.4:1.

Consequently, in order to ensure the survival of the motor, Oldsmobile had to equip it with anti-detonant injection- which fed a 50/50 mix of distilled water and methanol, called 'Turbo-Rocket Fluid', into the engine to help cut in-cylinder temperatures and reduce the chance of detonation.


Oldsmobile's turbocharger system, unsurprisingly, proved finickity at best. Reliability issues and a lack of power when the ADI was depleted meant most customers simply resorted to having the turbocharger removed in its entirety, reverting to natural aspiration in an effort to avoid future issues.

Chevrolet took a far more sensible approach with the turbocharged Corvair, dropping the air-cooled, 2.4-litre flat-six engine's compression ratio from 9.1:1 to 8.0:1. This was also perhaps a move necessitated by the lack of cooling overhead, which could exacerbate detonation, given the air-cooled nature of the Corvair's engine. All in, the flat-six engine put out a reliable 150hp and 210lb ft - and it needed no ADI system.

Even though the Corvair was unveiled prior to the Oldsmobile, the Chevrolet offering was an option pack - rather than a standalone model, like the Jetfire. As a result, many often cite the Jetfire as being the first turbocharged production car. Complexity and reliability issues resulted in the turbocharged Oldsmobile being killed off in 1963, at any rate; the force-fed Spyder lasted until 1966 but a lack of interest in the model meant the entire Corvair line was ultimately discontinued in 1969.

Turbochargers continued to make headlines in motorsports applications and, not long after, the likes of the 1973 BMW 2002 Turbo, 1975 Porsche 930 and 1978 Saab 99 Turbo rekindled interest in turbocharging. Numerous brands rushed to adopt turbochargers and the 'Turbo' badge - and the performance the systems granted - quickly became a sought-after commodity.

Even frugal types could soon get their turbocharged kicks, with the official introduction of the turbocharged diesel US-market Mercedes-Benz S-Class 300SD in May 1978. Before long, turbocharged engines were offered by countless manufacturers - and, today, a new engine without a turbocharger is a rare beast indeed.

Author
Discussion

MHig

Original Poster:

20 posts

101 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
Good article with plenty of interesting background.
One very minor error (anorak alert): the Napier Lion was not turbocharged. It was a naturally-aspirated engine with the exception of special versions built for air and land speed record attempts when it was fitted with a mechanical supercharger.

Lewis Kingston

155 posts

10 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
MHig said:
Good article with plenty of interesting background.
One very minor error (anorak alert): the Napier Lion was not turbocharged. It was a naturally-aspirated engine with the exception of special versions built for air and land speed record attempts when it was fitted with a mechanical supercharger.
Thank you! smile

Ah, apologies - that was supposed to say 'turbocharged variants'. Napier seemingly offered a handful of turbocharged high-performance Lions, according to my research, alongside the other versions.

This is what prompted me to mention it:



From the book 'Gloster Aircraft Company: 'The first Guan [experimental fighter] was powered by a 450 hp geared Lion IV engine having an external turbo-supercharger driven by exhaust gases from the Lion's two outboard cylinder banks and mounted externally under the propeller shaft... The second had a 525 hp Lion VI with a turbo-charger above the propeller shaft.'

I believe the engine pictured on the left in this line-up is one of the turbocharged (labelled 'supercharged' here) versions; the one in the middle is the turbocharged and 'aftercooled' variant.



Here are some better stock shots of it from Alamy. Here's the standard turbocharged version:



(love those cast cooling fins on the intake side!)

... and the aftercooled (well, intercooled in today's terminology) one:



Would make a good poster, that. There appears to have been two or three variants (named V, VS and VIS), although V and VIS are the only ones listed in some online archives.

I don't have much else on these, though, unfortunately – but references to them do pop up in various technical papers and research documents from time to time. If anyone knows more, shout...

Edited by Lewis Kingston on Monday 9th July 19:20

otolith

35,560 posts

137 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
Timely. I have been thinking about turbochargers.

It seems that since the 80’s I have been reading about the death of turbo lag, but every time I drive one, there it is. It’s not as bad as it was, but it’s still there. I drove a brand new Audi at the weekend with the 1.4 turbo and it’s still very much present. Not boost threshold, this thing made peak torque from very low revs, just good old fashioned lag.

I wonder whether people don’t notice it, don’t care about it, or have just never driven a car without it?

SonicShadow

2,192 posts

87 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
otolith said:
Timely. I have been thinking about turbochargers.

It seems that since the 80’s I have been reading about the death of turbo lag, but every time I drive one, there it is. It’s not as bad as it was, but it’s still there. I drove a brand new Audi at the weekend with the 1.4 turbo and it’s still very much present. Not boost threshold, this thing made peak torque from very low revs, just good old fashioned lag.

I wonder whether people don’t notice it, don’t care about it, or have just never driven a car without it?
People often conflate lag and threshold, which is why people say turbo lag doesn't exist anymore with engines like the 1.4 turbo.

kambites

54,901 posts

154 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
Language changes - these days more people use "turbo lag" to mean "high boost threshold" than the tradition meaning. Unfortunately there isn't really a replacement term for, well, turbo lag.

As the article alludes to, much the same is true of "intercooling". Very few automotive engines are intercooled in the conventional sense (in fact are any?) but all charge-cooling has come to be called intercooling in recent years. One day a manufacturer will decide to fit an actual intercooler to a sequential turbocharged engine and will have to come up with a new term for it. smile
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otolith

35,560 posts

137 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
SonicShadow said:
People often conflate lag and threshold, which is why people say turbo lag doesn't exist anymore with engines like the 1.4 turbo.
Could be, yeah. And I guess the popularity of automatics obfuscates it. This was a DSG type transmission, so there was a delay while it shifted down followed by a delay while it built boost. Not something you had to drive around, just a disappointingly mushy disconnect between what you ask for and when you get it.

unsprung

2,388 posts

57 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
PH article said:
Oldsmobile had to equip it with anti-detonant injection- which fed a 50/50 mix of distilled water and methanol, called 'Turbo-Rocket Fluid'
hehe

a timely nod to the allure of the space age


J4CKO

25,026 posts

133 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
I prefer turbos over most NA, it has to be a really good NA engine in the right car, generally of a fairly high capacity, and then I always reckon it could be further improved with a turbo or two, most cars nowadays are a bit heavy to do without and nobody seems to want anything over 1800 cc anyway.

I remember driving two Saab 9-3's back to back, 150 bhp LPT vs 135 bhp 2 litre N/A, after the LPT, which was supposedly only 15 or 20 bhp adrift it felt like night and day difference, the NA felt flat and lifeless in comparison.

Someone will say its because drivers are lazy but to be honest, sitting in a car isnt exactly hard work is it, revving out some highly strung 2 litre isnt like going to the gym for three hours, is just most drivers prefer a bit of torque low down.




kambites

54,901 posts

154 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
For me it depends on the car. I wouldn't want to be without a turbo in a barge (unless it's pure electric, I suppose) but in a sports car I'll take a highly strung naturally aspirated lump every time. The engines in our two cars (2.0TFSI in the Octavia and 1.8 K-series VVC in the Elise) both suit their respective cars very well; neither would work in the other car.

J4CKO

25,026 posts

133 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
kambites said:
For me it depends on the car. I wouldn't want to be without a turbo in a barge (unless it's pure electric, I suppose) but in a sports car I'll take a highly strung naturally aspirated lump every time. The engines in our two cars (2.0TFSI in the Octavia and 1.8 K-series VVC in the Elise) both suit their respective cars very well; neither would work in the other car.
Yeah, the K is a lovely unit, despite the usual hilarious remarks about headgaskets, I had a Rover BRM and it was a lovely thing, coupled with the most fantastic gearchange, that was until er, the headgasket went, it needed to be in fairly light cars, putting them in Freelanders didnt seem a very good idea in hindsight. People slag them but Ford were still offering the CVH and Endura push rod engine when the K was released,

Think they found their niche in the Elise really, believe it was quite a bit lighter than the Toyota lump that replaced, plus the aftermarket seems to have finally sorted the Headgasket issues.


As weight goes up, torque has to, people dont tend to want big capacity or more than four cylinders, so turbo it is, similar reason SUVs and MPV's tend to be diesels, small petrols in heavy cars are horrible, remember the 2.3 petrol Galaxy, felt slower than the diesels and hopeless on fuel, you could get a V6 that did like 16 mpg.

otolith

35,560 posts

137 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
kambites said:
For me it depends on the car. I wouldn't want to be without a turbo in a barge (unless it's pure electric, I suppose) but in a sports car I'll take a highly strung naturally aspirated lump every time. The engines in our two cars (2.0TFSI in the Octavia and 1.8 K-series VVC in the Elise) both suit their respective cars very well; neither would work in the other car.
I (almost entirely) agree - I would not want a small engined barge without a turbo, and there aren’t many large engined barges around these days.

Unfortunately, I think the days of NA or engine driven supercharger sports cars are nearly over. I am still hoping that we will see advances either with electric torque fill or electrically assisted turbochargers to remove the elastic throttle cable effect.

kambites

54,901 posts

154 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
otolith said:
Unfortunately, I think the days of NA or engine driven supercharger sports cars are nearly over. I am still hoping that we will see advances either with electric torque fill or electrically assisted turbochargers to remove the elastic throttle cable effect.
EVs can easily have very good throttle response. They just need to get the battery weight down to levels which are suitable for sports cars.

otolith

35,560 posts

137 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
kambites said:
EVs can easily have very good throttle response. They just need to get the battery weight down to levels which are suitable for sports cars.
Oh, EVs are another ball game. They overcome the problem entirely. But hybrids may make turbocharging tolerable in the meantime.

J4CKO

25,026 posts

133 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
kambites said:
otolith said:
Unfortunately, I think the days of NA or engine driven supercharger sports cars are nearly over. I am still hoping that we will see advances either with electric torque fill or electrically assisted turbochargers to remove the elastic throttle cable effect.
EVs can easily have very good throttle response. They just need to get the battery weight down to levels which are suitable for sports cars.
Been is Teslas and there doesnt seem to be throttle response, move foot, car shoots forward with what seemed to me like no perceptible delay, but then I wasnt driving, certainly seemed instantaneous, and vigorous.

AC43

6,250 posts

141 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
I'm not a massive fan of smaller over-turbo'd engines. I had a couple of 2.0 petrol turbo's in the 90's and they bogged down horribly off the line. Same is true of a lot of modern hire cars be they petrol or diesel.

I've tried a 3.0 Merc diesel and that was a lot better and I understand that BM sequentials are better again.

Still much prefer large petrols.


Onehp

586 posts

216 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
Boost threshold and lag are related. As the treshold comes down, so does lag at a given rpm usually unless in the very sweetspot of the turbo, then other things govern lag.

Many a good modern turbo engine has a treshold of as little as 1000-1500rpm. Far better then say the Evo8 FQ400 that had a theoretical treshold of 3000rpm, but in practice not much happened before 4000rpm, and then suddenly peaked torque, very sharply, at 5000rpm. From there on the turbo was on full blow and delivered the same amount of air/power until the engine revved out. Basically only one way to drive it quickly...

Modern turbos are a lot better, and one of the better ones is the ea888 gen3. I run a stage 2 with less lag treshold/lag due to better breathing, treshold is 1500rpm or so, and by 2500 the lag is unobtrusive and response aggresive. On mine tuned for this, the torque curve remains almost flat up to redline, with power raising all the way. Very much like an NA engine. And as such, it's enjoyable in a wide range of rpms. Does it have the low down response of an NA? No, but neither is the 'answer' of an NA that impressive at low revs, so you're driving an NA above 3000rpm anyway on a sporty run. Is the turbo throttle response higher up as sharp and crisp as an NA? No it isn't. But if I wanted the same power, the NA engine would be twice as large, making the car heavier. To keep power to weight, the engine then needs to be bigger again, making the car heavier again... Ending up 500kg more? For that, I'm in the case of a sporty car quite willing to sacrifice some crispness... Turbos allow for lighter cars. Or more practical ones as a result if you wish.

It's all a balance, if you're too power hungry, the turbo will continue to govern the engine's character, but if you use todays turbo tech as a complement to the ICE, it can do a pretty good job at making the engine feel like a significantly bigger NA engine - albeit with a slightly soft throttle response... I like Porsches approach on their non-turbo, turbo engines...

That said, I still want a 991.2 GT3 manual before a GT2RS PDK, so the whole power to weight argument has holes in it... Unless you, at a lower level, actually 'need' the power to have fun...

Edited by Onehp on Tuesday 10th July 10:59

cerb4.5lee

10,162 posts

113 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
otolith said:
SonicShadow said:
People often conflate lag and threshold, which is why people say turbo lag doesn't exist anymore with engines like the 1.4 turbo.
Could be, yeah. And I guess the popularity of automatics obfuscates it. This was a DSG type transmission, so there was a delay while it shifted down followed by a delay while it built boost. Not something you had to drive around, just a disappointingly mushy disconnect between what you ask for and when you get it.
I also thought that with the Audi TTS I had with the DSG, it felt a massively laggy engine but I think the gearbox was mostly to blame for it.

cerb4.5lee

10,162 posts

113 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
J4CKO said:
I prefer turbos over most NA, it has to be a really good NA engine in the right car, generally of a fairly high capacity, and then I always reckon it could be further improved with a turbo or two,
I also prefer turbos to most NA too, I went Z4M/E92 M3/330i and they all had lovely NA engines but because they're all relatively heavy cars they felt flat low down(great high up though).

The great thing about a Turbo is that you get that shove low down from the torque, so even if the car is heavy it helps to hide it. Maybe its my age but I'm not that interested anymore in revving a car to 6k revs to get it to shift and with a Turbo you don't have to.

I think a weekend only car works well with a NA engine though because you can search out clear roads and enjoy the revs, for a daily though its turbo all the way for me.

otolith

35,560 posts

137 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
The three litre turbodiesel plus auto in my Merc does everything one can rationally need in a daily, but it’s not exactly fun.

cerb4.5lee

10,162 posts

113 months

Monday 9th July
quotequote all
otolith said:
The three litre turbodiesel plus auto in my Merc does everything one can rationally need in a daily, but it’s not exactly fun.
I think the roads you use everyday can have an impact aswell, my E92 M3 wasn't fun as my daily either, yet I'd imagine most would like the idea of a NA V8 that revs to 8400rpm...in heavy traffic/on congested roads its a downright frustrating car to use/get the best from.