Continental Automotive Systems Inc. in Auburn Hills announced Tuesday it has launched production of the world’s first aluminum turbocharger. Reducing weight and boosting fuel economy, the new system helps lower overall vehicle emissions.
Integration of the unit — weighing nearly 3 lbs. less than chargers using traditional materials — in the three-cylinder gasoline engine for the Mini Hatch (Mini Cooper) has already begun.
“Aluminum in a turbocharger designed for cars is a real milestone,” says Wolfgang Breuer, head of the engine systems business unit of Continetal’s powertrain division in Germany. “With this lightweight material, we are saving nearly 30 percent of weight compared to a conventional turbocharger while simultaneously reducing costs and achieving system benefits.”
The aluminum housing keeps the turbochargers cool even as regular operation can be enough to make common steel-made turbochargers glow red. As a result, neither the external surface nor the internal temperature becomes overheated.
“It’s not just the aluminum that makes the turbocharger special; it was also developed from being a typical add-on component to an integral part of the engine,” says Udo Schwerdel, head of Continental’s turbocharger product line, engine systems, and powertrain division. “In order to meet the requirements placed on the unit and its integration in the cylinder head, we worked closely with the BMW Group starting from the simulation phase — an indication of trust that we greatly appreciate.”
Reporting sales of around $45 billion in 2013, Continental employs around 182,000 people in 49 countries including the United States, Germany, and China. Its customers include Ford Motor Co., BMW, and General Motors.