Power and Efficiency
STANDING START - Lord Seno (The Freeman) - February 17, 2020 - 12:00am

With the advent of electric cars and the world’s clamor over emissions and fuel economy, lawmakers are pressuring carmakers into creating more efficient performance vehicles with technology, specifically turbochargers on smaller displacement engines. Now, we have 3 cylinder turbo engines making more than a hundred horses while running twice the distance on one a liter of gasoline. It may sound like a modern success story, but it’s nothing new.

The 1970s brought pandemonium to the world automotive market in the form of oil crisis brought about by the war in the Middle East.  At that time, it was either power through the carbureted V8s or efficiency with the lowly 4 cylinders. That was the norm. The 1970s saw the US dictate the course of the automobile market, demanding the introduction of more efficient cars and stricter emission laws.  This strangled the low tech V8s and inline 4s as emission equipment became standard. As the 80s approached, carmakers began searching for a better way to make efficient yet powerful cars.

Volkswagen brought electronic fuel injection (EFI) to the original Golf GTI in 1975. This not only allowed the GTI’s relatively small 1.6-liter engine to produce 108 hp, it also gave it unprecedented reliability and efficiency.

The “electronic” in EFI is code for computer control, as defined “Electronic Fuel Injection”.  A computer uses sensors to monitor combustion and make constant adjustments to the fuel delivery, so the whole process is much more precise. Unlike the carburetors they replaced, EFI systems also inject fuel under pressure. In carbureted cars, fuel can sometimes slosh around as the vehicle goes around corners, cutting off the flow, something that is not present an electronic fuel injection system. It did not take long for EFI to be standard on all cars.

In 1978, Saab launched the 99 Turbo, which unleashed a decade of turbocharging mania. Cars twice smaller than American V8s were now producing twice the horsepower and  inevitable EFI and Turbo would both be perfectly combined to produce both power and economy.

Turbo and EFI technologies launched a wave of imitators, making the letters “GTI” synonymous with cheap speed, and the word “turbo” as ‘80s as Duran Duran.

The EFI and Turbo combo soon became quintessential in 90s performance cars, being present in almost all car manufacturers line.  What was a crude invention introduced in the 80s was now near perfect in the 90s, giving away almost 300 horses for an electronically driven, turbocharged, 4 cylinder engine. It was a successful decade, EFI Turbo trickled down to the Diesel Engines, giving more efficiency and reliability to the highly popular engine.

Now, “direct injection” technology is taking fuel injection to the next level of efficiency and power production. Think of it as EFI version 2.0. While fuel injection systems mixed fuel with air before it went into the cylinder’s combustion chamber, direct injection sprays a precise amount of fuel straight into the combustion chamber (hence the name), further increasing efficiency. Combined with a modern turbo, this 2nd gen partnership has reached another level of both power and efficiency.

lord_seno@yahoo.com

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