Turbocharged Trucks Taking Charge

April 14th, 2015 by admin


Amidst the sci-fi-ish scenario of self-driven vehicles and the promise of electric cars, the 4×4 industry is making inroads of its own with turbochargers. Semi-trucks have trusted turbo diesels for years and it looks like the light truck market is catching on. The consumer numbers don’t lie: four years ago roughly 6% of the trucks sold in America came with turbochargers – today it has more than tripled to about 20%. Projections are for today’s 20% to double over the next five years.

What is a Turbocharger?

Turbochargers employ a kind of forced induction system by reprocessing exhaust gases to spin a turbine. This causes an air compressor to spin, forcing extra air into engine cylinders. More air flowing in allows more fuel to be added and when each of the cylinders explodes the end result is increased power. This boost in horsepower means engines can be smaller, yet comparable in performance to larger ones. Turbocharged engines also translate to low-end torque, a sought-after feature for truck owners.

Increased Fuel Economy

Turbocharging, when paired with direct fuel injection, produces the even greater benefit of enhanced fuel economy. Ford’s EcoBoost systems that pair turbocharging with fuel injection are flourishing and are catching on with offerings from Chrysler (Pentastar) and GM. By design, they use less fuel, but whether they boost fuel economy will ultimately be decided by consumers using them for different applications. Urban driving, road trips and utilitarian use like towing and hauling are among them.

Higher gas prices mean mileage is on the minds of truck owners, whether their vehicle is for daily commuting, heavy-duty towing or off-road treks. The Environmental Protection Agency has imposed strict mileage standards for model years up to 2025 with minimum levels increasing in stages. By 2025, vehicles are scheduled to have increased their fuel efficiency by about 50%.


About half of those purchasing Ford F-Series trucks are opting for EcoBoost capability. According to Ford’s numbers released at the end of last year, the 2015 Ford F-150 2.7L EcoBoost 4×2 gets 19 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 22 combined. Its fuel economy rates as the highest of all gas-powered, full-sized pickups in America. Some owners contend that these numbers are generous and the only way to get the advertised mileage is to go easy on the turbo. While debates about leadfooting and fuel economy in EcoBoosts rage on, Ford is stressing durability and their tagline is “Defining the future of tough.”

Horsepower and Towing Capacity

One advantage of the new aluminum bodies in F-150s is its lighter curb weight can apply more weight to payload capacity. Trucks are still used as workhorses for towing and the Ford F-150 with the 2.7L V6 generates 325 HP and 375 pound-feet of torque. Properly equipped, it hauls 3,300 pounds and tows up to 12,200 pounds. Reviewers characterize the 3.5L EcoBoost engine as capable of pulling heavy trailers with minimal strain and have confidence in the torque it offers while towing.

Clean and Green

The first part of EcoBoost is eco, and that means turbochargers run cleaner and leave a greener footprint. Although the engine burns cleaner, a turbocharger is high maintenance and requires clean filters and clean oil to stay healthy. Dirty oil spells trouble for a turbocharger and adding systems like MagnaFlow exhaust helps performance. Overall, by using a turbocharger and downsizing an engine, the end result is greener technology.

It remains to be seen whether GM, Dodge and Toyota will rally to compete with Ford’s ambitious turbo initiatives. The effect that smaller displacement engines will have on V8s is another question. Will revising make V8s obsolete or will there always be a market for the mighty V8 in work trucks?



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