Turbo Compounding… The Next Big Thing in Powertrains

Today, more and more gas-powered vehicles are beginning to evolve and incorporate electric assistance. This movement has taken flight partly because of more stringent government mandates and partly because consumers are demanding better fuel efficiency in today’s high-priced world.

As this new powerful and efficient hybrid blend has taken form, engineers have been tinkering with different designs, looking to maximize the full potential. This is where turbo compounding comes into the picture.

Wright R-3350 18-cylinder aircraft turbo compoundingAccording to Car and Driver’s Don Sherman, turbo compounding is destined to be the next big thing in energy recovery and improved performance. But what exactly is turbo compounding?

Well, it’s a technology that was originally developed in the wake of World War II (first used for the Wright R-3350 18-cylinder aircraft engine) and has been mostly relegated to Freightliner and Semi use since.

As far as how it works, Sherman says of the technology, “Like a turbocharger, the turbo-compound approach recovers waste-exhaust energy, but, instead of powering a compressor, the turbine wheel is connected to the crankshaft through a train of gears. Turbo compounding works with or without a conventional turbocharger upstream.”


Additionally, the turbo compound set-up can drive the generator and eliminate the “complexity and cost” of the turbine-to-crankshaft gearing. The generator is also capable of operating as a motor that spins the compressor and wipes out boost lag. Even further– with the exhaust turbine, compressor wheel, and generator all mounted on a common shaft, the recovered electrical energy can power the wheels out of a turn.

Pretty good, right?

Detroit DieselCurrently, this technology has yet to make it to mainstream use, but the signs of its impending takeover are all over the place. Earlier this year, engine maker Detroit Diesel won the Truck Writers of North American Technical Achievement Award for its implementation of turbo compounding into its design. Also, the technology has been picking up steam on the Formula 1 circuit as cars have begun using similar devices.

As far as everyday rides go, well, we’re still going to have to wait and see.



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