To meet upcoming fuel economy requirements, automakers are expected to embrace turbocharging as a cost-effective way to maintain performance and increase fuel efficiency. In 2009, only five percent of vehicles offered for sale in the United States came with turbocharged engines. By 2020, an automotive industry executive expects that number to reach 82 percent, thanks to increasing fuel economy standards agreed to between the EPA, automakers, and the state of California. By 2025, automakers must achieve a Corporate Average Fuel Economy of 54.5 miles per gallon, fleet-wide. Producing smaller displacement, turbocharged engines is a cost-effective way of reducing fuel consumption, while maintaining expected levels of horsepower and performance.
There are a limited number of ways to achieve significantly better fuel economy from today’s cars. Going the hybrid drivetrain route adds expense, weight, and complexity, and using lightweight materials such as carbon fiber, composites, or aluminum usually have a significant increase in cost. Downsizing the engine is a one time-honored method, but American consumers are only willing to sacrifice so much performance in the name of better fuel economy.
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Modern turbocharged engines have come a long way in the past few decades, and now feature technologies such as gasoline direct injection, variable valve timing, and variable intake length maximize performance while minimizing fuel consumption and emissions output. Higher compression ratios are possible, thanks to sophisticated knock-detection systems, which minimize the need for a substantial amount of boost to make reasonable power. The net result is engines that have very little turbo lag, and are far more durable than their forced-induction equivalents of a few decades back.
Your opinions on whether the new CAFE standard of 54.5 miles per gallon is a good thing or a bad thing may differ, but all of us can agree on this: more power plus increased fuel economy is a very good thing. Let us know what you think in the comments sections below.