Valeo presented a number of major innovations at the Paris Motor Show recently. Ian Henry, just-auto/QUBE analyst, spoke with Patrick Sega, Transversal Projects Director for Group R&D at Valeo about some of these innovations. Here, we report on the new electric supercharger. Valeo is the first supplier to offer an electric supercharger, which is designed to improve the throttle response from cars with small engines at low RPMs, especially on start-up. Valeo believes that when linked to its energy recovery technology, the supercharger can assist in delivering fuel savings of as much as 20%.
IH: Please tell us what led Valeo to develop an electric supercharger?
PS: The automotive industry is focused on reducing CO2 emissions, cutting fuel consumption and improving its environmental performance; the electric supercharger is just one of Valeo’s contributions in this regard.
IH: In what ways does it help cut emissions?
PS: First of all, it is a major contributor to the process of engine downsizing, especially in what we call “severe downsizing”. This means where engines are being cut to just 2- or 3-cylinders, with capacities of just 1.0-1.2 litres.
IH: Does this mean the electric supercharger is only applicable to small cars?
PS: No, not really, as there are some quite large cars which are being fitted with such small engines, but with small engines, there a problem because they can weigh more than 1.5 tonnes. This is a particular problem, especially with torque required for acceleration from a standing start. Overcoming this problem is what the supercharger does.
IH: Most cars use turbochargers for boosting downsized engines: why should they use the Valeo electric supercharger?
PS: There are a several advantages, with two particularly important, namely the response time and the energy neutral nature of the supercharger.
IH: Can you explain more about these advantages please?
PS: The supercharger achieves a very fast response time, faster than a turbocharger, of 0.35 seconds, eliminating turbo lag, giving the car concerned superior acceleration and engine torque. This is made possible by the very powerful and low inertia electric motor. And the motor itself gets its power through recovered electric energy in regenerative braking phases.
IH: What about the cost of the supercharger?
PS: I can’t give prices yet, because we are still in the development phase. This is where we see a major difference between an electric turbocharger and an electric supercharger; the supercharger has no turbine and does not use expensive high temperature materials. It is also much smaller and lighter than an electric turbocharger, and this makes it easier to integrate into the engine assembly. The electric supercharger is also much smaller, lighter and cheaper than a mechanical supercharger.
IH: So is this a game changer?
PS: We think so and we are the only company do this right now; electric turbochargers have been around for about 10 years, but haven’t really taken off.
IH: And when will we see your electric supercharger in use?
PS: As I said, we are still in the development and validation phase; we are working with all the major vehicle companies now. Certainly we expect it to take more than year before it will be ready for series applications, but certainly within five years we should see the electric supercharger in use, probably on premium or sporty car. We have demonstrated the electric supercharger on naturally aspirated engines from 1.0-2.4 litres and on turbocharged petrol and diesel engines from 1.0 litres up to 4.0 litres. It can also work on 12V and 24V systems and is now being developed to work on 48V systems as well.