DETROIT -- Eaton Corp. is repositioning superchargers -- traditionally performance enhancers for muscle cars -- as an alternative to turbochargers for fuel-efficient powertrains.
Eaton has developed a product line, dubbed the Twin Vortices Series, which has been adapted for engines as small as 1.2 liters.
Ken Davis, president of Eaton's vehicle group, says the efficient design minimizes the parasitic losses that occur when superchargers draw power from the engine's crankshaft.
Unlike a turbocharger, a supercharger is "on" whether the motorist is accelerating or not.
On the other hand, superchargers are maintenance free, are easier to install than turbos and operate efficiently at low engine rpms. Davis says that makes it easier for supercharged cars to move to higher gears while at low rpms, improving fuel economy.
Davis acknowledges that turbochargers are getting more contracts as automakers race to meet tougher fuel economy targets.
"The mind-set is that the traditional supercharger is less efficient, not more efficient," Davis told Automotive News. "It's something you put on those big muscle cars. But we are finally getting some traction."
Eaton superchargers are used on vehicles of such varying sizes as the Nissan Micra, Chery A3 and Tiggo, Volkswagen Touareg hybrid, Porsche Cayenne hybrid and Cadillac CTS-V.
With its new line of superchargers, the Cleveland company is trying to break the dominance of Honeywell International Inc., BorgWarner Inc. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., the dominant suppliers of turbochargers.