Subaru has been trying to figure out the direction for its three-headed monster, as the Impreza and its WRX and WRX STI variants have grown increasingly at odds over the past two generations. Now this gets thrown into the mix: When the new WRX gets released in late 2013, it may ditch the traditional exhaust-gas powered turbocharger for a new, electric design.

That's right, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, Subaru is working on an electric turbo, shades of those computer-fan-sourced "power adders" you used to see advertised in the back pages of Sport Compact Car a decade ago. Except we would assume Subie-parent Fuji Heavy Industries is developing a design that actually works. According to the report, heat from the exhaust would be captured, but instead of using the exhaust pressure to turn the turbocharger's turbine, the heat energy would be converted to electricity, which would then spin the impellers. This could be more efficient, as well as eliminating the piping and turbo lag.

While that sounds neat and all, we're not so sure we want to see an unproven technology like this applied to one of our favorite affordable performance cars. Unless, of course, it allows for BMW M3-like performance in a $30,000 car.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 87 Comments
      icon149
      • 2 Years Ago
      sounds like a good idea, seems like you could almost completely eliminate turbo lag if it was activated by the pedal push instead of waiting for the exhaust pressure.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @icon149
        [blocked]
      Justin Campanale
      • 2 Years Ago
      Whatever they do, they really need to focus on making the WRX/STi line lightweight. The current one is a complete beast at the track, but it weighs nearly 3400 pounds. I think shrinking it down to 3k or below would do wonders. Subaru is going to haul some serious ass with the next WRX/STi if they go on a diet.
      jariten
      • 2 Years Ago
      I can't imagine this being good on the track (or any other long application of high throttle). The energy would have to be stored in a capacitor which would have limited capacity and I'm highly doubtful that you could get enough out of exhaust gas heat to keep it fully charged. I imagine after just a bit of hot running you'd end up with a dead electocharger. The only other thing I could see working would be powering it from a battery which could charge from the exhaust heat plus a second beefy alternator which would be a drag on the engine and add unneccesary complexity. I suppose it would be ok in street application since you're not at WOT all that much...but it seems like a poor trade off.
        lorenzo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @jariten
        Totally agree. I guess the BRZ is gonna need a hood bump to step up the power in a way that has any true balls. Or as BMW would call it....a "Power Bulge" eewwww
      torqued
      • 2 Years Ago
      I love the idea. But I have to admit that this part: "the heat energy would be converted to electricity" sounds a little like "and then magic happens". Obviously it can be done, but how? My vote is steam power! :)
        montoym
        • 2 Years Ago
        @torqued
        My guess is, something like this: http://green.autoblog.com/2009/03/09/bmws-continued-efficient-dynamics-plan-to-include-thermoelectri/ BMW has been working on it for a while, note that the link is from 2009. Nothing in production as yet though.
        Gorgenapper
        • 2 Years Ago
        @torqued
        Hmm yeah, maybe not water but perhaps a special chemical or oil. Steam punk STIs?
        Fonin
        • 2 Years Ago
        @torqued
        scientists have been working on thermovoltaics to create electricity from heat, the primary goal in cars, to capture heat from exhaust/engine to charge batteries, etc.
      gary
      • 2 Years Ago
      Somewhere between this idea and the current system is the right answer: A hybrid turbo. A small battery or capacitor stores energy on cruise/deceleration. That stored energy is used to drive a small electric motor that quickly spools up the turbo when the throttle opens abruptly. Once the exhaust flow is sufficient to generate reasonable boost, the electric system disengages. You get throttle responsiveness almost as good as a supercharger, without the persistent parasitic drag.
        Rotation
        • 2 Years Ago
        @gary
        A small battery won't cut it.
          gary
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          How much battery do you think it would it take to spin a turbo for a second or so until the natural boost came in?
      jebibudala
      • 2 Years Ago
      I wonder if they've made significant breakthroughs in peltier plate technology which can easily convert temperature differences directly into electricity. I can see lining exhaust manifolds or heads with them. On the other hand I do have experience with electric powered turbo compressors. They do work well, unfortunately it requires a LOT of current and voltage. Most practical implementations I've dealt with require 400 amps @ 96 volts. The compressors normally have multiplier gears or belts to get them spinning upwards of 70,000 rpms from a 15,000 rpm electric motor. Mostly the technology has been deployed in standalone configurations, i.e. generators.
      Hazdaz
      • 2 Years Ago
      I've been hearing about electric turbos for a while so I'd love to see Subaru try this out.
      thenewrick
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think the traditional turbo setup works very well. They should just work on lightening the car and possibly give it twin turbos for faster spool or twin scroll. If they removed 300-400 lbs and gave it a twin-scroll good for the same power as today but quicker spool up it would be just right. Better handling, fuel economy, power/weight ratio, and less turbo lag.
        Drakkon
        • 2 Years Ago
        @thenewrick
        Twin scroll requires equal length headers. People make those for Subies but it's added piping. Added exhast piping which is working directly against your 300-400# deduction.
      WindsWilling
      • 2 Years Ago
      Well, I'm thinking that with the new chassis for the WRX, they're trying to fix the one glaring issue the car had due to it's design, which was the motor placement that caused them to push too hard in cornering. If they got rid of some plumbing for weight, and the ability to push the motor back and lower in the chassis (though they won't be able to reduce this totally due to AWD), this could be a good thing. At least something good will have came from the "86" designing. If the old rumors are true, with this being a new, smaller, and more "focused" drivers car that doesn't share a direct platform, and they reborn the 22b coupe, Subaru just... ...shut up and take my money.
      ALafya
      • 2 Years Ago
      Subaru definitely need to figure-out how to make a much more fuel-efficient Turbo. While the can run wild with the STi maybe even plain WRX, their other offerings, e.g. Forester XT and now dead LGT have always been on the low side of efficiency. When I consider a NA Impreza vs. WRX today, I calculate about $700/year just in fueling my daily driver. This is because the penalty is not 1~3 MPG but something like ~9 MPG. Ford, Chevy, Hyundai and others already figured it out. Subaru should too.
        ALafya
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ALafya
        I don't believe electric turbo is rocket science and should make a big difference not only in efficiency but also in low-end torque, zero lag and much reduced cost.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        Justin Campanale
        • 2 Years Ago
        Yup...forced induction will shut up the morons who rant on every BRZ page "NEED MOR PWR""no torque""my chevy venture can beat this in a straight line"
        Fonin
        • 2 Years Ago
        an electrioc supercharger could be great, but only for very short periods of time, i think it was Thomas Knight Engineering/Boostheads that had a universal kit that ran off a starter, a cpacitor pack and a second battery. this was good for 15 seconds or so at a time, plenty for the drag strip or daily driving, not so much for constant WOT or etc.
      rolle
      • 2 Years Ago
      Damn - that's one ugly vehicle......
        AJ Harnak
        • 2 Years Ago
        @rolle
        They grow on you. Especially after you drive one for a while.
        Gorgenapper
        • 2 Years Ago
        @rolle
        I don't think it is ugly at all, in a hatchback version anyway.
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