Turbocharging Turns 100

Turbocharging turns 100, Honeywell Turbo Technologies Celebrates 50th Anniversary of its First Turbocharger Application

It’s the technology that helped change the driving habits of millions of people around the world, that put the ‘hot’ into hot rods and spawned a global industry.

Turbocharging turns 100 years old in 2005 – but the dream of its earliest pioneer, Dr Alfred J Büchi, has even more resonance in the 21st century than when he first patented the turbo in Switzerland a century ago.

Honeywell's Turbo Technologies business also celebrates this golden milestone with its own 50th anniversary of its first turbocharger application. A worldwide leader in automotive turbocharging technology, Honeywell supplies automakers such as Volkswagen, General Motors, Peugeot, Caterpillar and Hyundai more than 9 million turbos a year.

"The story of the turbo transcends regions, industries, businesses and even centuries," said Adriane Brown, Honeywell Transportation Systems President and CEO. “It may be 100 years old, but the turbo is a 21st century technology with a major role to play in helping auto manufacturers improve engine performance and fuel economy and reduce CO2 emissions.”

The History of Turbos
If Dr Büchi was the ‘father’ of turbocharging, Cliff Garrett was the ‘heir’ who created mass-market automotive appeal for the technology. His company, now part of Honeywell, pioneered turbo application in the production car market.

In 1955, Honeywell launched its first turbocharger application (the T15) on the Caterpillar D9 Tractor. In 1961, turbos took their first steps into the world of passenger vehicles when the Garrett® T05 debuted on the 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire.

In the years to follow, the turbo was a partner on countless breakthrough cars like the Saab 99 in 1977, Mercedes 300 Turbo Diesel in 1978 and Pontiac Firebird Trans Am in 1980. It made its way to the commercial diesel arena as well when John Deere first placed turbos on their farm tractors to increase torque, performance and fuel economy. Thirty years later, the turbo remains a constant on commercial vehicles worldwide.

Along the way, the turbo also helped change the face of auto racing on both the Formula 1 and Indy Car circuits and in the World Rally Championship (WRC) and the legendary 24 Hour of Lemans. The progression of the turbo technology still outpaces the competition today -- witness the last four winners of the Le Mans, all powered by turbocharged engines.

Today's Turbo
In the last decade, the turbo has become a fixture on more and more vehicles worldwide. Today, more than 50 percent of all vehicles in Europe will be powered by turbocharged diesel and gasoline engines, and the number of turbo-powered vehicles in Asia and the U.S. continue to grow. Today's automakers use the turbocharger as a way to reduce the size of their engine without compromising the performance that their customers demand. In turn, this smaller, but equally powerful engine produces less harmful emissions and is 30-50 percent more fuel-efficient than a non-turbo engine of equal performance.

Honeywell's technology leadership has lead the way with innovations like the Variable Nozzle Turbine (VNT) which revolutionized the industry over a decade ago and has found applications on all sizes of engines from small passenger vehicles to heavy duty trucks. Honeywell’s third generation VNT™ offers improved vane aerodynamics, new generation turbine wheel and better controllability, which together deliver a 130 percent boost increase. The next phase of Honeywell's turbo technology includes variable nozzle compressors, two-stage turbocharging and an e-turbo with an electric motor.

"Looking back at the successful evolution of the turbo provides perspective and inspiration to the current pioneers at Honeywell who are creating innovative and breakthrough solutions that will change the landscape of the modern vehicle in the years to come," added Brown. "The next 100 years should make for a fun ride!"

For more information on turbocharging and Honeywell’s Turbo Technologies, click here.