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Why Your Next Car Will Probably Have A Turbocharger

Turbocharging is growing even faster in the U.S. market than some analysts expected, largely because diesel passenger cars finally seem to be gaining some momentum.

“The number of additional diesel applications coming to the U.S. market has been a real surprise,” said Tony Schultz, vice president of the Americas for supplierHoneywell Turbo Technologies.

Examples include a new 3.0-liter V-6 that will be available for the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee and the 2014 Ram 1500 pickup; a 2.0-liter diesel for theChevrolet Cruze; plus a 2.2-liter diesel in theMazda6. According to Chrysler, the diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee gets an estimated 30 mpg.

German brands BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche andVolkswagen also offer a growing number of diesel engines for their U.S. lineups.

A turbocharger forces more air, and therefore more oxygen, into the combustion process. Modern diesel passenger-car engines in the United States are all turbocharged. According to Honeywell, there are still some non-turbo or “naturally aspirated” diesel engines on sale in other world markets, but mostly in developing markets.

Turbos are also catching on in the United States in gasoline engines, often in combination with direct injection. The combination of turbocharging and direct injection allows automakers to switch to smaller gas engines, to save fuel without sacrificing power.

Jeep 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine; company photo

Ford Motor Co. calls the combination of turbocharging and gasoline direct injection EcoBoost. That’s the best-known brand name, but all of the major global automakers are employing the same concept.

Direct injection means the engine uses precise, computer-controlled squirts of fuel at high pressure to create more efficient burning. That gets more energy and lower emissions out of a given amount of fuel. Modern diesel engines use even higher pressure.

According to Honeywell, downsized and turbocharged gasoline engines plus turbodiesel engines combined account for more than 75 percent of new vehicles in Europe. The company doesn’t expect the United States to reach that level until around 2025.

For the United States, Honeywell has roughly doubled its estimate for diesel sales penetration by 2018, to 6 percent from 3 percent. By 2018, it expects diesel and gasoline turbo engines combined to account for about 20 to 25 percent of U.S. new-vehicle sales.

Schultz said, “If it’s diesel or gasoline, we feel strongly that turbos will play a part.”

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