SOUTHFIELD, MI – Auto makers worldwide are beginning to sign on the dotted line for Valeo’s new electric supercharger, the French supplier says.

The technology, acquired from U.K.-based developer Controlled Power Technologies 11 months ago, could see application in at least a half dozen production vehicles in 2015-2016, executives say here in a demonstration to the media of a European Volkswagen Passat equipped with the electric blower.

Valeo says the device, which is designed to provide a low-end power boost to help launch conventional vehicles equipped with fuel-saving stop/start technology, can work with turbocharged gasoline and diesel engines, as well as naturally aspirated powerplants.

The supplier says it has development programs under way with all three types of powertrains.

The main drivers in the technology’s emerging popularity are tightening carbon-dioxide-emissions and fuel-economy regulations forcing auto makers to downsize engines by as much as 40% or 50%, says Pierre-Emmanuel Strohl, director-marketing for Valeo.

In many cases, vehicle engineers are using exhaust-driven turbocharging to boost output in these new smaller-displacement engines.

But turbo lag, the delay between when a driver increases pressure on the accelerator and power is delivered, will become more pronounced “as the power output of the engines goes down and small engines are used in very large cars,” Strohl says, putting drivability and customer satisfaction at risk.

The Valeo supercharger would provide that extra off-the-line punch. And because it is electrically driven, it doesn’t need to draw power from the engine to work, as do conventional superchargers. That makes the technology more fuel- and emissions-efficient, and it also is less expensive than such other solutions as 2-stage turbocharging or mild-hybrid powertrains, Strohl says.

Valeo currently has test programs with 10 auto makers for applications with turbocharged gasoline engines, he says. As many as three of those could hit the market in the 2015-2016 timeframe.

Strohl doesn’t say where the technology will debut first, but he indicates it will be either with a European or Asian OEM. In July, Valeo said the first production use would be on a European sports car with a 4-cyl. engine, with the second application a mass-market downsized 3- or 4-cyl. powerplant.

Test programs are in place with six auto makers covering turbodiesel applications, with up to two production programs expected in 2015-2016. Three OEs are considering the supercharger for naturally aspirated engines, one of which could appear on the market in that same timeframe.

Planned applications cover vehicles with both conventional 12V electrical systems and 48V architectures, which some auto makers are beginning to eye for later in the decade.

Strohl doesn’t reveal precise volumes for any of the production programs but notes Valeo “is a volume manufacturer. For us, volume manufacturing typically starts with 100,000 (units) annually and goes to the millions.”

The supplier also believes it has the market to itself for now on the basis of its technology patents and exclusive contract for the device’s switched-reluctance motor.

Installed on the LC Super Hybrid project car offered for test drives here, the Valeo supercharger adds enough noticeable torque to the crankshaft to take the drama out of launching from a dead stop with the engine off.

Its advanced electric motor spools up the supercharger to 70,000 rpm in just 350 milliseconds to provide a boost at about 1,000-2,000 rpm engine speed, after which point the car’s turbocharger can take over if additional power is needed.

The LC Super Hybrid, a Passat equipped with VW’s 1.4L turbocharged gasoline 4-cyl., was developed by a consortium of companies, including CPT, which provided the advanced stop/start system that also uses a switched-reluctance motor; Exide, whose advanced lead-acid batteries supply the electricity; and engineering specialists AVL.

Test data compiled by AVL suggests the added technology boosts output of the 1.4L by 24 hp and 55 lb.-ft. (75 Nm) of torque, knocking a full 2.4 seconds off the car’s 0-62 mph (100 km/h) acceleration time while improving U.S. city/highway fuel economy by 2. 1 mpg (0.9 km/L).

That puts the engine on a performance par with VW’s bigger 1.8L turbocharged 4-cyl., but with an 8 mpg (3.4 km/L) mileage improvement, AVL says.

dzoia@wardsauto.com