Many a debate has been had over superchargers and turbochargers. This will not be one. I am not going to tell you which is better, both because I am simply providing descriptions and information of them, and because I myself have not owned or driven a vehicle equipped with either. So here we go, I am just going to…charge…into this post.
Turbochargers and superchargers are both types of forced induction systems. This means that air is compressed and forced into the cylinders to create more pressure within the cylinders, in turn causing more power from each cylinder when the fuel/air combination is ignited. Both of these systems are used to generate more overall horsepower for the car.
Superchargers are belt driven to generate their power. A pulley on the supercharger is wrapped with a belt that connects directly to the engine. It is powered in the same way the alternator or water pump is powered. As the engine spins the pulley, the supercharger spins and this action, through a few different possible mechanisms forces air into the cylinders. There are three types of superchargers, but I won’t delve into them. If you would like to know more on these different types, then check out this page: Types of Superchargers.
The power delivery from a supercharger is immediate, and as the engine turns faster, the supercharger turns faster, creating a very proportionate added power to engine rpm ratio. Although this power is created immediately, it has a slightly parasitic effect on the engine. Since it requires the engine to spin and power the supercharger, it is stealing horsepower to generate horsepower. This is minimal, and by no means does it make the supercharger ineffective. Here is what a supercharger might look like:
Turbochargers provide power to the engine by using the exhaust of the engine. As the exhaust gases flow out of the engine, a turbine catches that exhaust and begins spinning. The spinning of that turbine rotates a rod connecting it to another turbine, thus creating the second turbine to also spin. The second turbine is the powerhouse. It creates a flow of air into the cylinder, giving it higher compression and more air for the ignition, just the same as the supercharger. The turbo is more efficient however, as it does not leech power from the engine itself, instead using what is already being wasted (exhuast gas).
The downside to a turbo is that it has what is called turbo lag. This lag is the time that it takes for the exhaust gas to start spinning the turbo at a high enough rpm to force that extra air into the cylinder. Now bear in mind this isn’t minutes we are talking about, but the lack of immediate power can be felt as opposed to the instantaneous supercharger punch. Here is what a turbo might look like:
So the pros and cons of both:
- Immediate power
- High output at low AND high rpms
- Simpler to instant and manage with less maintenance
- Typically more expensive
- Leeches power from engine
- More efficient in power
- Can provide overall higher boost
- Sounds really cool!
- Turbo lag
- More work to install and maintain
Ultimately it is up to you to decide which is cooler/better, but it is clear that both are quite amazing and do a fine job of transforming a modest, quiet, and fragile engine into a roaring, guns ablaze, powerhouse engine.