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58 Automotive Innovation

design makes use of technology already on the market, adopting exhaust energy recap-
ture and regenerative braking to drive an electric supercharger on a turbocharged GDI
engine. The result is a three-cylinder, 1.0-liter engine that matches the performance of its
2.0-liter counterpart with a dramatic decrease in carbon emissions.16 Similarly, but with
more dramatic effect, Formula 1 cars and Audi’s diesel R18 LeMans racer have coupled
electric motors with turbochargers. The motor assists with low-speed boost, allowing the
use of a larger turbine without lag and enabling a more significant high-end boost. Volvo’s
production T6 Drive-E engine incorporates a turbocharger and supercharger in a 2.0-liter
package that produces 316 horsepower and an impressive 35 highway mpg.17 Mercedes is
taking this one step further by incorporating Formula 1 Motor Generator Unit (MGU) into
its hypercar designs. The idea is to place a motor/generator onto the turbocharger shaft,
allowing the generator to recover excess energy from the turbo as it spins down, store that
in a battery, and use that energy to get the compressor spinning and eliminate lag.18

Compression Ratio
In the end, the challenge of forced induction, tuned runners, variable valve action, and
just about everything else discussed thus far often comes down to the same issue: avoid-
ing knock. Basically, we want to squeeze as much power as we can out of the fuel, without
squeezing it so much that it ignites on its own. Tricky business. But instead of tweaking all
the peripheral variables to manage this, why not get to the heart of the matter and adjust
the amount the engine squeezes the charge? Advanced engineering and sophisticated
digital control offers us the possibility of doing just that.
Defining the CR of an engine has long been the very epitome of automotive engineering
trade-offs. An engine’s compression ratio is not a variable that can typically be altered, like
timing or fuel mixture; it is fundamental to the engine design. So, it needs to be defined
carefully at the start. At lighter loads and lower engine speeds, a high compression ratio
can provide improved fuel consumption, since higher compression means higher effi-
ciency. An increase in the CR from 8 to 12 might produce a 20% or more improvement
in an engine’s ability to turn combustion into mechanical work, called thermal efficiency
(Image 2.15).19 While you might expect higher pressure to mean increased knocking, the
risk of preignition is low given the low load. However, at high loads, as combustion cham-
ber temperatures rise, the same compression ratio would likely lead to autoignition. And
of course, a lower CR could allow for greater boost at high loads.
So, the resulting CR for a production engine tends to represent a compromise. A higher
compression ratio offers greater thermal efficiency and thus more power and fuel effi-
ciency, but it also invites knocking. So, in the past, designers defined a middling compres-
sion ratio that best suited the intended use of the engine. Compression ratios for gasoline

16 https://ricardo.com/news-and-media/press-releases/hyboost-demonstrates-new-powertrain-architecture.
17 G. Witzenburg, “Volvo’s T6 Engine Part of Bold Powertrain Strategy.” Wards Auto June 15, 2016. Available at
18 A. MacKenzie, “Revealed: 2019 Mercedes-AMG Project One Powertrain.” Motor Trend May 30, 2017. Available
at www.motortrend.com/news/revealed-2019-mercedes-amg-project-one-powertrain/
19 K. Satyanarayana, R.T. Naik and S.V. Uma-Maheswara Rao, Performance and emissions characteristics of
variable compression ignition engine. Advances in Automobile Engineering 5 (2), 2016, 1–5.