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Electric Boost

A look at some of the claims made by producers of aftermarket electric superchargers/turbochargers.

By Michael Knowling

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This article was first published in 2004.

Electric forced induction is an area of modification that attracts plenty of interest. Here at AutoSpeed, we've received countless emails on the subject. It seems the ability to deliver instant boost pressure - regardless of rpm - harnesses the interest of every enthusiast. In this story we've put together a list of aftermarket electric turbo/supercharger companies and presented you with their claims. This is not a comparison test, but it is certainly a great place to start looking if you want to take your car to an electric boost stage of bolt-on modification.

e-RAM


The e-RAM electric supercharger has been manufactured by the US-company eRACING since 1997. There are currently six versions of the e-RAM on offer...

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The base level e-RAM 3.0 is suitable for engines up to 5.0-litres and mounts to your existing airbox (ie pre air filter). A 3-inch rubber adapter is used to attach the eRAM directly to the airbox. The base e-RAM 3.0 retails for US$299. But a variation on this model is the e-RAM 3.0KN, which comes supplied with a K&N pod filter. In this application, the factory airbox is removed and the e-RAM is mounted downstream of the K&N pod air filter (ie the e-RAM draws air through the pod filter). The e-RAM 3.0KN kit costs US$349 - US$50 more than the version that connects to the airbox.

For even greater installation flexibility, the in-line e-RAM 3.3 comes with adapters on both the intake and outlet ends of the e-RAM. This enables you to mount the unit anywhere in the intake system - such as between the airflow meter and throttle, if desired. The in-line e-RAM 3.3 cost US$309.

For maximum performance gain, the Super e-RAM is for you - the Super e-Ram is essentially a pair of conventional e-RAM units mounted in series. The Super e-RAM checks in at US$589. Like the e-RAM 3.0, a K&N filter and in-line mounting versions are also available in the Super e-RAM range - these cost US$629 and US$596 respectively.

eRACING claims the base e-RAM 3.0 achieves a 4 - 6 percent peak power increases with strong gains at all engine revs. Up to 15 percent power has been measured when removing the factory airbox as part of the installation (such as when fitting the e-RAM K&N pod filter kits).

Note that the Super e-RAM (with two e-RAMs in series) is said to give a 9 percent gain throughout the rev range and up to 27 percent more top-end power.

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According to the manufacturer, "the eRAM produces less than ½ psi (positive pressure), but also rids the intake system of about ½ psi of vacuum caused by filter and inlet restriction." These two improvements combine to give the eRAM its claimed 1 psi supercharging effect. Using the same logic, the big Super e-RAM puts out up to 1.7 psi.

Compatible with conventional 12-volt electrical systems, the e-RAM is an axial flow compressor. The e-RAM 3.0 draws up to 50 amps and is rated at 700 Watts (approximately 1 horsepower). The Super e-RAM places a 100-amp demand on the electrical system.

Engine Management Compatibility?

According to eRACING, "there is typically no need to adjust air-fuel mixture - the computer can handle the e-RAM's small increase in mass airflow." They also state that power gains depend on existing engine management strategies (ie some cars will respond better than others).

In any case we'd suggest careful before and after analysis of mixtures...

The e-RAM is triggered by an add-on throttle position switch that 'spools' the compressor to full output (which is about 22,000 rpm) within one-tenth of a second. The e-RAM can be triggered at any engine speed, but note that a 100 percent throttle opening is required - this is because "the choking action of the throttle would just remove any gains in pressure created by the e-RAM". Engagement of the e-RAM at only wide-open throttle also minimises the load on your car's electrical system and maximises the life of the unit. At all other times (when the e-RAM is not operating) it is said to cause minimal intake airflow restriction. According to flow bench tests, airflow through the static 3 ½-inch diameter e-RAM 3.0 is equal to that through an open 3-inch diameter pipe.

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eRACING suggests the e-RAM can typically be installed in less than an hour. It comes supplied with an illustrated instruction manual, wiring, adapter hose, fan inlet, e-RAM unit, a 50-amp relay and a throttle position micro-switch.

According to eRACING there is no chance of the e-RAM damaging your engine through component failure. "If anything was to enter the fan and damage it, any and all parts would be captured by the filter." Note that, in installations where the e-RAM draws through a cone-type filter, a supplied safety screen is fitted to the outlet of the e-RAM. The e-RAM electric motor is rated for over 1000 hours use (which is more than ample considering the full-throttle only operation) and its composite impeller is apparently very strong. It is also very heat resistant and features no-maintenance ball bearings.

For more information - including warranty and a performance guarantee - visit eRacing Motorsports

ESC Electric Supercharger


From the BoostHeads.com website; "Thomas Knight is proud to unleash the revolutionary ESC-400 Electric Supercharger. Our patent-pending ESC- series electric supercharger technology shocks the competition with up to 20 psi of instant boost. Yes, we said 20 psi - in 3/10 of a second"...

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Quite unlike anything else on the market, the ESC-400 uses an Eaton twin-rotor core that's driven by three custom wound electric motors. All three motors - totalling 18 horsepower - are mounted on a CNC 60-16 T6 aluminium billet bracket. Interestingly, the ESC-400 has its own independent power source - four high-capacity 12V batteries, which are designed for very fast recharge.

Suitable for use on engines up to 2.5 litres, the ESC-400 is capable of 20 psi of boost but - on a stock motor - it is recommended that you don't exceed 5 - 7 psi. Depending on the boost pressure you require, the unit can produce maximum boost for up to 15 seconds. The Eaton roots-type compressor comes rated up to 425hp and delivers up to 405 cfm of airflow at 5.5 psi boost. Note that, like the e-RAM, the ESC-400 supercharger operates only at wide-open throttle.

The universal ESC-400 kit - which retails for US$1995 - includes a boost gauge, solenoids, relays, switches, battery terminals, copper busbars, ammeter and a 2½-inch check valve. Installation should take a competent workshop about 12 hours. Note that the ESC-400 draws 600 - 1200 amps during operation, so specialist electrical system experience is desirable.

And what about the engine management system, you ask? Well, due to the huge mass of air this unit can supply to the engine, it seems likely you will need to upgrade the car's standard engine management system. There's no escaping the fact that huge increases in mass airflow call for management mods - this is the case when bolting on any supercharger or turbocharger kit.

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In its most basic set-up, the ESC-400 battery system can be trickle charged overnight to give you 15 seconds of boosted performance the following day. Once spent, full battery charge will then be restored after about an hour of driving. But, should you decide to fit a 200-amp alternator, you can restore battery charge in just a few minutes of driving. Note that the car's alternator is bypassed when the ESC-400 is in operation - this eliminates parasitic losses.

The ESC-400 is a great bolt-on for people wanting a big power hit only on the odd occasion. As claimed, "while you're waiting in the staging lanes or cruising along the strip, you can relax and hurl insults at the nitrous guys while your system preps for another 15-second burst of sheer power. That's more than enough time to run the quarter mile or remind that high school kid with the neon muffler bearings who his daddy is..."

Interestingly, the ESC-400 is apparently very loud in operation - it's described "like a low pitched siren, or a vacuum cleaner on steroids." Durability is a strong point - information on BoostHeads.com suggest the unit will comfortably outlast your vehicle.

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BoostHeads encourage you to look at their dyno graphs, consider their achieved performance times and - if you're still sceptical - you can go for a ride in a car equipped with the ESC-400. So long as you're in the vicinity of Miami, Florida... "We are absolutely confident that, like everyone who has taken us up on the challenge, you will walk away a believer."

Check out all the details of the ESC-400 at www.boosthead.com

The Twin-Turbo Zet?

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There is another electric supercharging device you may have seen on the market - the Twin Turbo Zet. This unit contains two small PC-type fans and costs around AUD$300.

See "The Twin Turbo Zet" for our product review.

DynaCharger

"Turbodyne Technologies Inc. is a leading engineering company in the design and development of charging technology to enhance the performance of internal combustion engines."

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The Turbodyne Dynacharger is an electric assist device that can be adapted to specific turbochargers. The Dynacharger system comprises an electronically controlled ultra high-speed brushless electric motor that's mounted between the turbine and the compressor of a conventional turbocharger, together with an electronic power and speed control system.

Electrically, the operation of the Dynacharger alternates between Motor Mode and Generator Mode. In Motor Mode, the Dynacharger provides the desired boost pressure for low speed engine acceleration. In Generator Mode, the Dynacharger utilizes the otherwise wasted surplus exhaust gas energy by using the turbine to drive the electric rotor. At full engine power, the generator can be used to slow the turbine, and in many cases alleviates the need for a wastegate.

The most obvious benefits are improved transient response, boost pressure available at low rpm and low load and greater turbo sizing flexibility - you can rely on the Dynacharger for low-end boost and you can opt for a huge compressor for strong top-end performance.

See the Dynacharger at www.turbodyne.com

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