The history of turbocharging is almost as old as that of the internal combustion
engine. As early as 1885 and 1896, Gottlieb Daimler and Rudolf Diesel investigated
increasing the power output and reducing the fuel consumption of their engines by
precompressing the combustion air. In 1925, the Swiss engineer Alfred Büchi was
the first to be successful with exhaust gas turbocharging, and achieved a power
increase of more than 40 %. This was the beginning of the gradual introduction of
turbocharging into the automotive industry.
The first turbocharger applications were limited to very large engines, e.g. marine
engines. In the automotive engine industry, turbocharging started with truck engines.
In 1938, the first turbocharged engine for trucks was built by the "Swiss Machine
The Chevrolet Corvair Monza and the Oldsmobile Jetfire were the first turbo-powered
passenger cars, and made their debut on the US market in 1962/63. Despite maximum
technical outlay, however, their poor reliability caused them to disappear quickly
from the market.
After the first oil crisis in 1973, turbocharging became more acceptable in commercial
diesel applications. Until then, the high investment costs of turbocharging were
offset only by fuel cost savings, which were minimal. Increasingly stringent emission
regulations in the late 80's resulted in an increase in the number of turbocharged
truck engines, so that today, virtually every truck engine is turbocharged.
In the 70's, with the turbocharger's entry into motor sports, especially into Formula
I racing, the turbocharged passenger car engine became very popular. The word "turbo"
became quite fashionable. At that time, almost every automobile manufacturer offered
at least one top model equipped with a turbocharged petrol engine. However, this
phenomenon disappeared after a few years because although the turbocharged petrol
engine was more powerful, it was not economical. Furthermore, the "turbo-lag", the
delayed response of the turbochargers, was at that time still relatively large and
not accepted by most customers.
The real breakthrough in passenger car turbocharging was achieved in 1978 with the
introduction of the first turbocharged diesel engine passenger car in the Mercedes-Benz
300 SD, followed by the VW Golf Turbodiesel in 1981. By means of the turbocharger,
the diesel engine passenger car's efficiency could be increased, with almost petrol
engine "driveability", and the emissions significantly reduced.
Today, the turbocharging of petrol engines is no longer primarily seen from the
performance perspective, but is rather viewed as a means of reducing fuel consumption
and, consequently, environmental pollution on account of lower carbon dioxide (CO2)
emissions. Currently, the primary reason for turbocharging is the use of the exhaust
gas energy to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.