History of the turbocharger
The history of the turbocharger begins almost immediately with the one of the automobile. Already in the middle of the 1880ies, Gottlieb Daimler as well as Rudolf Diesel had the idea of increasing the degree of effectiveness of the engine by supplying it with additional air by using precompression.
Beginnings of the turbocharger
But it was none of these two pioneers of the automobile industry, but the Swiss Alfred Büchi who developed the first turbocharger in 1905. Büchi succeeded in the first successful charging by a turbocharger only 20 years later, however, the improved performance was already higher than 40 per cent.
After this success, the turbocharger soon went into the series production, but was only applied for ship's engines and other large engines at first. The first commercial vehicle engine with a turbocharger was brought to market by the Swiss machine works Saurer in 1938.
Until the car engines were also supplemented with a turbocharger, more than 20 years should pass. Neither the Oldsmobile Jetfire nor the Chevrolet Corvair Monza could gain acceptance on the market, since both vehicles lacked reliability.
Boom of the turbocharger in the 1970ies
This could have meant the end of the turbocharger technology if it hadn't been rediscovered by the technicians of the Formula One. Compared to the usual 3 liter naturally aspired engines the 1.5 liter turbo engines were way more superior.
The success stories in the Formula One promoted the popularity of the turbo engines. Therefore, the top models of almost all car manufacturers were equipped with a loaded otto engine at this time. BMW developed the 2002 turbo, Audi the Sportquattro, not to forget the Saab 99 Turbo and the Renault 5 Turbo.
According to the connection to the Formula One, these models stood out primarily due to their particularly strong performance. The aspect of the fuel saving, which would have fitted perfectly in the time of the oil crisis in 1973, hardly played a role for the charged otto engines. In addition to that, the so-called "turbo lag", that is the delayed response behavior of an otto engine equipped with great turbochargers, was little convincing for the driver.
Final breakthrough of the turbocharger
Due to that, he development of the turbocharger took a new turn once again. With the Mercedes Benz 300 SD in 1978 and three years later with the VW Golf Turbodiesel charged otto engines were replaced by charged diesel engines. The charging with the turbocharger were a clear improvement for diesel engines concerning effectiveness, so that these could catch up with the otto engines when in the matter of driving performance.
Tightened pollution legislation towards the end of the 1980ies promoted the further distribution of the charged diesel engines, as pollutant emissions could be reduced thanks do the use of the turbocharger.
During this development, also the otto engines changed. Turbochargers serve no longer primarily the increase of performance, but as a remedy for fuel saving and the reduction of pollutant emissions. The so-called downsizing, that is the reduction of engine size and costs, also plays an important role for use of turbochargers.
Today, almost every commercial vehicle has a loaded engine, even sports cars, such as the Bugatti Veyron whose 1001 hp engine is supported by four turbochargers. The turbocharger technology has finally gained acceptance after its development about 100 years ago.