Motorsport has always been a testbed for future car technologies, and it seems that yet another advancement has found its way into your road car.
We’ve long accepted that if you’d like big power from a small engine, you’ll have to deal with turbo lag. If it's the response you are chasing, a smaller turbocharger will better suit your needs, but it will run out of puff, and thus power, on the top end.
The F1 V6 Hybrid formula was introduced in 2014, and it saw the automakers developing a 1.6 litre forced induction and hybrid assisted V6 that can churn out around 1000bhp on qualifying trim. Mercedes had Andy Cowell as head of their High Performance Powertrain, and he led a team that developed arguably the most dominant Formula One engine in the series’ history.
These F1 Turbos are huge in comparison to the 1.6 litre displacement, but because of the MGU-H (Motor Generator Unit - Heat) systems fitted to said turbos, there was virtually no lag, and no loss of power from an undersized turbocharger as well.
These have finally trickled down to Mercedes’ road cars. Their electric exhaust gas turbocharger, with know-how derived directly from their Formula One team, was co-developed by turbocharger experts Garrett, and will see use in future Mercedes Benz models.
This innovative turbocharging system sees a slim electric motor, measuring about 4 centimetres, directly integrated on the charger shaft between the turbine wheel on the exhaust side and the compressor wheel on the fresh air side. It is capable of spinning up to 170,000 rpm, and can be operated via a 48-volt on-board electrical system, to to maintain the boost pressure at all times, so that a continuous direct response is guaranteed.
As the compressor wheel is driven electrically when there isn’t enough exhaust gas, it improves immediate response from idle speed and across the entire engine speed range. The combustion engine responds even more spontaneously to accelerator pedal input, enabling higher torque at low engine speeds.
The brains behind this clever piece of technology, for the German marque at least, the aforementioned Mr Andy Cowell, announced recently that he is to part ways with the brand. No word yet on where he is headed, but with Aston Martin poaching another Mercedes bigwig, and with their F1 head’s not insignificant investment in the British automaker, we wouldn’t at all be surprised if he was trading Brixworth/Afflerbach, for Gaydon.