Turbos Grow Much Faster Than Hybrids In Quest For MPG

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There's a quiet revolution going on in the auto world, one that isn't as trendy as plug-in cars or hybrids: turbocharged engines. 

Cheaper to build and buy than hybrid systems, they offer great gas mileage and great performance.

In some cases, such as the 3-cylinder 2014 Ford Focus 1.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost, which is rumored to launch in the U.S. next year, the resulting gas mileage may equal or even beat those of a hybrid car, while retaining the power and performance of a much bigger engine

Because smaller, turbocharged engines are also cheaper to build and develop than full-blown hybrid systems, many automakers, including Ford, Hyundai and General Motors are now favoring turbochargers over hybrid systems as their preferred way to meet tough CAFE Mileage rules

2013 Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost live photos

2013 Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost live photos

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According to parts manufacturer Honeywell, the cost advantage turbocharged engines have over hybrid systems means that by the end of 2012, an estimated 3.2 million turbocharged vehicles will have been sold during the year. 

That’s 1 million more turbocharged vehicles than were sold during 2011. 

Because the financial impact of using turbochargers -- even electrically-powered ones -- is much lower than implementing a hybrid drivetrain, there’s much less of of a sticker shock for buyers.

Unlike hybrids, which tend to scream their eco-credentials, many small, turbocharged cars don’t even display any badge to signify what’s under the hood. 

As a consequence, many car buyers don’t even realize they’re buying a turbocharged car, making it almost stealth for many. 

But we’re not sure car buyers really want or need to know what’s going on under the hood. For them, all that matters is gas mileage, responsive power, and a good purchase price. 


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Comments (21)
  1. So, how much better gas millage does a turbo gets over a hybrid? GM claims that their Volt hybrid can get as much as 900 MPG if you only travel 19 miles out and 19 miles back, with no stops in between.

  2. Volt is more than a "hybrid". It is an EV, series hybrid and parallel hybrid in one...

  3. Well, that is a marketing scheme. Sure, by theory that Turbo makes sense. It is more efficient and cheaper to build. But almost ALL turbos require premium fuel. So, the cost to buyers at gas pump will whip out any savings from the MPG gain. Typical 91 Octane cost about 10-15% more than 87 Octane. So, if the MPG improves only 10-15%, it is bascially a wash... Turbo also require more maintaince and frequent oil change. The longer reliability is also lower than non-tubor cars...

  4. Your statements are not correct. None of Ford's EcoBoost powertrains require premium fuel, and the EPA ratings are with regular fuel. Turbos do not require addtional maintenance nor more frequent oil changes. If you have any evidence on reliablily, please share it. But I often times see posters stating (without supporting data) that diesels have longer life and they have.....di and turbos.

  5. Ford EcoBoost is just about the "only" turbo charged engines out there that doesn't require premium. Care to list another one? Also, it works b/c it combines Direction Injection with it so the traditional "pinging" doesn't happen because there is no "pre ignition".

    Diesels last longer in general b/c all engine components are built with higher specification due to the stress level and higher operating temperature. That is why you are also paying a premium with Diesels.

    Frequent oil changes are essential keeping the high spinning turbos well lubricated. You can take your chance. But other than Diesels, show me any regular turbo gas engines that get over 200,000 miles with original turbo.

  6. Most if not all modern turbos have twin independent cam control and direct injection. DI has a cooling effect which reduces pre-ignition. Ford, GM, and Hyundai all specify regular; the European brands specify premium (to get more power).

    Diesels are built with more robust components, but the amount of "overdesign" versus expected forces is no greater on a passenger car diesel than a gasoline engine. There is no reason why diesels would have any better longetivity than gasoline engines. The cost of diesels is only partially due to components; the majority of the cost is in exhaust after-treatment.

    Manufacturers do not call for more frequent servicing on turbos, and I trust their engineering assessment.

  7. I drive a 2004 Volvo XC70 which is powered by a turbo inline 5 cylinder. It specifies regular fuel, which I use. It specifies a normal number of oil changes, and I often go much longer than the recommended amount of time between changes. I have 250,000 km on the car, and I drive a fair bit these days. Roughly 40,000 km per year. The car and engine are in perfect working order, including the turbo. I get 7.2 litres per 100km highway if I drive like a normal person. I get 8.5 L/100 city. If I drive like a maniac, my fuel economy suffers.

    I just wanted to clear things up a little :D

  8. Premium is 5-7% over Regular; not 10-15%. This has been the case for decades now. Octane boosters were the rage until Premium prices dropped; wiping out the cost savings of added boosters.

    Also, turbochargers have improved in quality--lasting over 200K miles.


  9. In Northern California, regular unlead at Costco is $4.14. Premium is $4.59. That is 11%.

  10. You're kidding... you are using Costco or a Costco in northern California as the definitive representation over the average for the State of California and the average of all States combined?! You do realize you are a lone wolf in this one.

    I guess we should expect a spike in octane booster sales.


  11. Costco gas price is one of the cheapest in the state, especially in the Northern California area. Since California is the state with the most car sales and one of the highest gas price, I think that has some merit. If it was MT or WY, then most "buyers" wouldn't really care...

  12. Merit would be the "mean"; not a data point. Here are 5 data points, all from Costco:

    Reg Prem
    Modesto 3.95 4.15
    San Fran 4.09 4.29
    San Jose 4.06 ----
    Oakland 3.99 4.19
    Sacramento 3.97 4.17

    Only San Jose was missing data in the range given.


  13. [Better Format]

    Merit would be the "mean"; not a data point. Here are 5 data points, all from Costco:


    San Fran....4.09.....4.29
    San Jose....4.06.....----

    Only San Jose was missing data in the range given.


  14. A nice article but you did miss the mark a bit. It's all about efficiency, while nothing beats a plug in car, a turbo is a solid step forward to let us handle the day in the near futurewhen we have $6 gas.

  15. It's true that the installation of turbos is increasing dramatically. For instance, Ford's EcoBoost engines will comprise around 90% of the new Escape and Focus lineup.

    The first intro of Ford's 1.0l EcoBoost in the U.S. is likely to be the Fiesta, not the Focus (although it's being sold on the Focus in Europe). Also, while turbos offer excellent overall fuel economy, they usually cannot match the city fuel economy of a hybrid, even with a start/stop system.

  16. Apologies, should have said 90% of Escape and Fusion (excluding hybrid) lineup (not Focus).

  17. Well Turbo is an easy option available to improve vehicles power, performance and Mileage. Many people even dont know that the vehicle they are buying is turbocharged. Basically this is very common in Diesel engines. Even Tata Nano's (Worlds cheapest car) new version is will be coming with turbocharger.

  18. Lets not forget that turbocharging allows manufacturers to down size the engine thereby saving weight. Hybrids add heavy batteries and motors.

  19. Greg you say heavy batteries, just how heavy is a Prius pack? Also the two electric motors make up the transmission and there is no starter motor or alternator so I would guess that balances out the items found on a normal car.The Prius weighs about 3042 lbs which is not overly heavy for the size of car and the recent Prius C has a battery weight of 68 lbs and an overall weight of about 2500Lbs.

  20. Lets look at a few facts.. 1 Honeywell is a leader in Turbo Tech so they would say this! 2 An industry wide move to smaller engines to cut emissions and improve economy requires a turbo for decent performance. 3 The only way to get the economy is lay off the turbo because when you accelerate hard enough to bring it on line your wasting fuel.The big problem with this combination people will use the performance side mostly so where's the economy. Will look good on EPA scale but in reality not deliver the goods. Turbos come and go every few years and are a pain for second and third owners due to previous abuse. They do require regular oil change of the right stuff,and cool down idle periods after heavy use.

  21. A good comparison would be nice. Especially for city fuel economy. Hybrids are hard to beat around town. Plus they give the driver a taste of electric car operation, which is nice.

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