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Since the advent of the forced-induction engine, we have been looking for ways to get every drop of performance we can. There are many approaches to getting additional power using better intercooling, water injection, or even adding nitrous oxide. One take on a short instant burst of power is being researched by Mahle and involves providing supercooled air to an engine, which allows it to burn a leaner fuel mixture and produce more power.

The supercooling idea is not new and was examined by Ford in 1993 on the Mustang Mach III concept car, then brought up again in 2003 with the SVT F-150 Lightning concept. Ford called its system the SuperCooler; it was designed to work with any turbocharged or supercharged engine equipped with a water-to-air intercooler. The system on the Lightning concept used a small tank of antifreeze that was hooked up to the truck air conditioning compressor. The air conditioning compressor cooled the antifreeze down to about 30 degrees. The other side of the tank was hooked up to the air-to-water intercooler, which usually had a temperature over 100 degrees. Once the antifreeze was circulated from the tank into the intercooler, it would lower the intercooler temperature and provide for a cooler, denser air charge into the engine; the result was around 50 extra horsepower for a burst of about 30 seconds to a minute, depending on the size of the tank.

The system for the Lightning was to be offered as a $750 option and would have been targeted towards drag racers and the like, as it could be used for a run down the drag strip and then re-cooled by the time the truck was back in line. The system was fairly non-intrusive – it only weighed about 25 pounds and did not require a new compressor or intercooler. But as with many concepts, it was ultimately scrapped.

Ford Fiesta EcoBoost 1.0-liter

The technology was always stuck in the back of my mind, but with larger and more powerful engines being produced it could not find its place. With the advent of new fuel economy standards, we have seen small-displacement turbocharged engines pop up and they seem like the perfect candidate for this type of technology. Ford's EcoBoost 1.0-liter three-cylinder turbocharged engine, as used in the Fiesta and Focus, is one such candidate for this technology. It would add a negligent amount of weight but could provide a boost of 10 to 20 horsepower when needed, like merging onto the highway or catching up to traffic.

I am not the only one of this opinion, as Mahle chose a Ford Focus with the 1.0-liter engine for its research. The company reports increases in torque of up to 19% once a burst is pushed into the system. In terms of acceleration, the test vehicle can go from 18 to 30 mph about 0.7 seconds quicker than stock.

Whether the technology always stays as a proof of concept or gets moved into production, we are moving to a more fuel conscious society and will have to develop new and better ways to power our vehicles to stay ahead of the game.

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