Everything could use a little more energy, and car engines are no exception. When a supercharger or turbocharger is used, an automaker can squeeze every last bit of power from an engine. Even if you’re the type of car buyer who focuses more on fuel economy and practicality than performance, you still may want a powerful engine. Read on for an explanation of the differences between turbochargers and superchargers, as well as the pros and cons of each choice.
A Brief Guide to Forced Induction
Supercharging and turbocharging are different methods of forced induction. The goal is to create more power by forcing more fuel into an engine’s cylinders, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. It’s not possible to just add gas; you’ll have to add air at a constant rate. A supercharger or turbocharger is an air compressor that pushes aerosolized fuel into the engine’s cylinders.
- Turbochargers are driven by exhaust gases. As the exhaust exits, it spins a turbine. There’s a second turbine at the opposite end of the shaft, which collects air at intake, compresses it, and pushes it into the engine to be mixed with fuel.
- Superchargers are driven by a belt directly from the car’s engine. Unlike a turbocharger, they pump air into the engine constantly, not just when exhaust gases flow quickly.
To make things more confusing for the uninitiated, some automakers are now using electric turbochargers in high-performance vehicles. As these aren’t exhaust-driven, they’re much like a turbocharger that can be switched on and off as need dictates.
The Pros and Cons of Superchargers
Another substantial difference between superchargers and turbochargers is that the supercharger runs constantly and requires fuel and engine power. By comparison, a turbo runs only when the engine is under a load. While a supercharger provides ample power, you’ll pay for it in terms of higher fuel spending.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Turbochargers
An engine with a turbocharger makes a great deal of power, and it gets better mileage because exhaust gases are recycled and used as an energy source. The main disadvantage of turbocharger use is that power isn’t instantly available. Rather, it takes a second or two for exhaust gases to get the turbo up to speed. While automakers have taken steps to reduce ‘turbo lag’, it’s still there, and some performance enthusiasts find it irritating.
Supercharger vs. Turbocharger: Which is the Best Choice?
Your decision to go with a supercharged or turbocharged engine will depend largely on your performance needs. If you want acceleration that will throw you back in the driver’s seat, a supercharger is the way to go. Furthermore, if you listen closely, you’ll hear the whistle of the supercharger over the rumble of the engine. Many performance enthusiasts like this feature, and they consider it music to their ears. However, if you’re buying a car for practicality rather than strict performance, choose a turbocharged powerplant. You’ll get good fuel economy, but the power will be there when you need it. For help choosing the right high-performance vehicle for your needs, visit the dealership today.
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