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Valeo expects automakers to embrace its electric supercharger

Likely making its debut in the Audi Q7, the technology promises to cut fuel consumption by up to 20 percent.

Valeo expects many automakers to embrace its electric forced-induction technology, which will likely make its debut in the Audi SQ7 TDI.

The system uses an electric motor to drive a compressor, providing immediate low-rpm boost without the inherent lag of traditional exhaust-driven turbochargers. Audi's implementation is expected to place the electric compressor downstream from the traditional turbocharger, which takes over at higher rpm and provides even more boost.

Valeo claims its electric compressor can help slash fuel consumption by up to 20 percent, according to an Automotive News Europe report, though it is unclear if the company is comparing to a naturally-aspirated engine or traditional turbochargers.

Companies have yet to agree on a common name for the electric-compressor technology, which does not technically fit within the same category as either an exhaust-driven turbocharger or a mechanically-driven supercharger. Valeo prefers the latter, while Audi has used the former.

Volvo is also working on its own implementation with a slightly different approach, previewed in a 2.0-liter engine with more than 450 horsepower. The prototype powerplant utilizes two parallel turbos, both spooled up by a separate electric compressor.

Valeo has reportedly supplied its electric compressor prototypes to several automakers for testing, but Audi is currently the only customer to have publicly confirmed production intent so far. Companies appear to need a revamped electrical system to drive the compressor, and Audi plans to use 48-volt alternators in upcoming vehicles to support such technology.

Audi last year suggested the SQ7 TDI will arrive in 2016, but Valeo points to a more conservative time-frame of 2017-2019.

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