Cooley On Cars
Your Emails: Why aren't turbochargers standard in all cars?Brian Cooley answers viewer email about the challenges of making turbo engine tech ubiquitous in cars.
[SOUND] [MUSIC] I'm Brian Cooley from CNET On Cars, taking some of your emails about high tech cars and modern driving, and this one comes in from Elie E. who says if turbos are so great, and we talk about them a lot around here, why are they not standard on just about every new car right now and what would it take to install one. Also, he says, could you please explain flex fuel. Okay, Elie, so turbos are an amazing technology You get more power more efficiently out of, typically, a smaller engine, is how they're often being used today. The thing with turbos, though, is adding them is not trivial. Even for a carmaker, with all their resources, adding a turbocharger to an existing engine design is going to add some cost, cuz the turbo itself is a very complex, highly machined mechanism, and it's got a lot of plumbing that goes around it. It also adds a certain amount of complexity to the design, and to what you're trying to shoehorn into the engine It's a lot of additional gear that is external to the engine itself. And know that an automaker cannot just stick a turbo on a current engine and say good, it's running. There's a lot of R and D and testing and engineering and recertification to be done before that goes into a production Line of cars. And everything is done in big scale in the auto biz. So they don't onesie twosie things or big projects. So that's one of the things around turbochargers. Now, there are add on kits out there, a lot of them for late model cars. You didn't mention what you drive, but let's assume it's something made in the last few years. You may very well find an add-on turbo kit for it. They typically cost in the few thousand dollars range and also make sure you've got some good guarantees in there because these are elaborate pieces of gear that's been at very high RPMs and make sure the kit you buy does promise To be regulatory compliant in the state where you're gonna be installing it and driving your car. Now in terms of flex fuel that means a world of three things that gasoline engine cars can run on, of course there's gasoline, that's The main fuel. There's E15 which is 15 percent ethanol which is corn alcohol basically, and the main flex fuel people think about at the pump is E85. This is 85 percent ethanol, typically corn alcohol, and 15 percent gasoline. That's a very different mix for a car to run on. So when you buy a flex fuel car it does several things to allow it to digest that diet. Including change in the ignition timing because there is a far higher octane to E-85 than to gasoline. Secondly, you change the fuel flow mapping. Because you get more fuel into the engine to get the same amount of power when you're running on E85. And thirdly, you have to make sure the materials in the engine are suitable to be exposed to ethanol, alcohol, which is a very different chemical of course, than gasoline. Those are the main three things that constitute a flex fuel car. [SOUND]