Family SUVs Meet Formula One Power With Turbocharger for Hybrid

Honeywell International Inc. is juicing up the climate-friendly hybrid family car with an engine turbocharger that’s been proved on Formula One racetracks.

The booster is a step beyond the traditional units that use a motor’s exhaust to increase power. Honeywell’s model will also generate electricity, increasing efficiency and reducing the lag time before acceleration kicks in.

“We see this combination of mechanical and electrical being a wave in the future,” said Terrence Hahn, chief executive officer of Honeywell’s transportation unit. “This will probably start on higher-end vehicles where there’s an ability to afford it and then it will be further industrialized by the industry.”

Fuel efficiency mandates in the U.S., China and other countries are driving the adoption of turbochargers, which allow for smaller engines while maintaining power. Turbochargers, which have roots in racing, increase fuel efficiency by more than 20 percent compared with a standard gasoline engine, Hahn said.

The market is expected to grow to $20 billion by 2040 from $9 billion last year and Honeywell’s sales of existing gasoline-powered turbos are expected to increase 20 percent a year, Hahn said. The U.S., which has a fuel efficiency mandate of 56 miles per gallon (90 kilometers) by 2025, and China make up three-quarters of Honeywell’s turbocharger sales growth.

“The lion’s share of the load on fuel economy is going to be covered by turbo,” he said in a telephone interview.

European automakers, such as Volkswagen AG and Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler AG, have been early adopters of turbochargers and now 67 percent of vehicles on the continent have them. In North America, penetration is only 21 percent.

The hybrid turbocharger technology will allow a car to store electrical power that can be used later to accelerate more quickly, cutting lag times from more than a second to a level unnoticeable to average drivers, Hahn said. Fuel efficiency also will increase over the mechanical turbocharger by a “handful” of percentage points.

Hahn declined to predict when the hybrid turbochargers would be included in everyday vehicles, saying it will depend on the automakers.

Honeywell’s transportation unit shed a struggling brake-parts business last year and was combined with the aerospace group, which makes aircraft auxiliary power units and engines. That gives Hahn more access to technology such as high-temperature materials and high-speed ball bearings, he said.

“If you look at our aerospace business, we are a mechanical and electrical expert,” he said. Honeywell is based in Morris Township, New Jersey.

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