Continental will be supplying Ford with innovative turbochargers for the carmaker's new I3 engines.

The three-cylinder direct injection petrol engines will generate 74 and 88kW from a displacement of just one litre. The engines are intended for installation initially in the 2012 Focus and later in the C-Max and new B-Max.

"Thanks to its fully automated assembly, enhanced thermodynamic efficiency and completely new design, our turbocharger provides a tailor-made and inexpensive solution for environmentally friendly driving," said Gerhard Böhm, head of the engine systems business unit in Continental's powertrain sivision.

"Continental's cutting-edge turbocharger technology will make it possible for modern combustion engines to remain competitive with alternative engines over the long term with respect to efficiency, environmental friendliness and performance," he said.

For a naturally aspirated engine, for example, the combination with turbocharger and direct injection allows for a consumption reduction of about 20%.

The successful collaboration with Ford has resulted in a turbocharger design that meets the particular technical challenges posed by small, downsized engines. The thermodynamics of the turbocharger system have been optimised to achieve the best possible coordination and balance between the compressor and turbine stages. The geometry of the blades has been specifically developed to suit the engine requirements.

"By minimising rotating masses and thus reducing inertia, and by optimising thermo-dynamics, we have given our turbocharger with excellent response characteristics," said Udo Schwerdel, head of Continental's turbocharger product line. The turbocharger's 38mm diameter turbine rotates at up to 240,000 revolutions per minute (4,000 revolutions per second) in the exhaust flow, which can reach 1,050 degrees.

In order to prevent pressure from rising too steeply at high engine output, a waste-gate valve conducts the exhaust gases past the turbine. On the compressor side, a compressor bypass valve prevents air, which has already been compressed, from forcing its way back into the compressor housing when the throttle closes. This safeguard prevents compressor surge, which could damage the turbocharger.

Continental began developing turbochargers for petrol engines in 2006. Free from the constraints of legacy designs or existing production facilities, the supplier was able to start from scratch and develop an improved product. All the main components are designed for fully automated assembly along the same axis, whereas conventional turbochargers have to be put together in several stages, partly by hand. Fully-automated assembly not only ensures top quality but also generates cost benefits - an important consideration in view of the high volume of three-cylinder engines that Ford plans to build.

The new turbochargers will be manufactured by Schaeffler, Continental's partner in this venture, at its production plant in Lahr, Germany. The site will have sufficient production capacity for up to 2m turbochargers a year.

Continental had good reason to initially concentrate on developing a small turbocharger. Prior to starting the project, market studies revealed future worldwide demand for small, downsized turbocharged petrol engines in response to the quest to sustainably reduce fuel consumption. But since Continental's turbocharger design is so scalable and flexible, it can easily be adapted to larger petrol or diesel engines as well.