Many of the most popular cars throughout the years have been equipped with a turbocharger. A turbocharger is a device that allows and engine to output more power than it normally would be able to generate at its given size. A turbo benefits the engine by compressing a larger volume of air into the combustion chamber. Turbochargers are used in a wide variety of automotive applications such as gasoline powered cars, diesel powered cars, motorcycles, trucks, aircraft, and marine vehicles. Turbochargers are even used in automotive fuel cells.


The concept behind what would become the first turbocharger was first patented in 1885 by a man named Gottlieb Daimler, who invented the first 4 wheel automobile. The turbocharger was invented in 1905 by Alfred B’chi a Swiss engineer. During world war one French engineer fitted their aircraft with turbochargers with some success. Turbochargers were first introduced into production aircraft in 1920’s, soon followed by both ships and train engines. During world war two many of the top aircraft used turbochargers such as the B-17 bomber, P47 fighter, and the P-38 Lightning. The first gasoline powered passenger car to come equipped with a turbocharger was the Oldsmobile turbo Jet fire which was released in 1962. This was followed in 1978 by the release of the Mercedes 300SD which was the first turbocharged diesel passenger car. Many modern diesel automotive engines are turbocharged due to the increase of power and the added fuel efficiency.


In a normal piston engine air is drawn into the combustion chamber by the down stroke of the piston much like sucking liquid into a soda straw. The turbocharger pulls in the surrounding air then compresses it, increasing the pressure, then pushes it into the intake manifold. The result is an increased volume of air entering the cylinder. The centrifugal compressor is powered by kinetic energy derived from the engines exhaust output. A turbocharger may also increase fuel efficiency instead of increasing engine power. It achieves this by using energy from waste gasses which are fed back into the engine intake. Using this process helps to make sure that all fuel is consumed before being vented as exhaust.

As we can see, turbochargers have a long and interesting history, from the first automobiles to trains and shipping to aircraft used in both world wars. Turbochargers are still widely used today, coming as a standard option on many popular cars and trucks throughout the world. Turbocharger use will surely continue into the future as long as piston engines continue to be used.