It’s a technology that was originated in aerospace, spread into motorsports and is now moving mainstream – commercially launched in both passenger car and commercial vehicle segments. Honeywell is a pioneer in ball bearing technology and has solidified its leadership in the area through successful commercial launches in high-profile vehicles.
For passenger cars, the current focus is in the 1.6L-3.0L displacement range, while for light pick-up trucks and commercial vehicles, the technology is a core feature in engines of 6.0L and above (on-and-off highway).
Typically, a Honeywell ball bearing system features ceramic balls as part of a high resistance steel cartridge design. Compared to the sliding mechanism of conventional journal bearing, the rolling mechanism of ball bearing results in enhanced mechanical efficiency and therefore better turbo efficiency. Honeywell’s ball bearing expertise not only lies in the product design, but also extends to the area of manufacturing. The assembly and balancing of ball bearing mechanism has to be extremely precise, with very tight measurement and tolerance level.
For passenger vehicles, the ball bearing technology helps improve transient response. The magnitude of time-to-boost improvement attributable to ball bearing can be between 20-70 percent. Second, ball bearing mechanism is shown to help deliver 2 percent fuel efficiency improvement compared to conventional journal bearing. Lastly, ball bearing turbos work wonders in cold start condition. This is because ball bearing is much less reliant on oil. Therefore, the high oil viscosity associated with cold start condition is much less an impediment to turbo responsiveness in ball bearing turbos.
Honeywell remains the only commercial vehicle turbo manufacturer to exploit the unique advantages that ball bearing systems offer. The commercial advantages of ball bearings come from their inherent ability to withstand high load and their ultra-low friction losses. For all these reasons, interest in ball bearing systems for commercial vehicle turbos is growing, particularly in medium duty applications where operators are looking for driveability, fuel efficiency and a life cycle of up to 1 million kilometres.
Evolution and Future Trends
From race cars to heavy-duty commercial vehicles to ligh-duty trucks, Honeywell has been at the forefront of extending the benefits of ball bearing turbos to more vehicle segments. In 2010, Honeywell ball bearing technology was adopted by Daimler for its 3.0L V6 diesel engine, which was equipped on Mercedes-Benz E, C, S and R class series. This follows the companies earlier success in applying this premium bearing technology to VNT DualBoost turbo (Ford F250/350) and to VNT DutyDrive (for Hino medium-duty trucks).
Ball bearing turbos are becoming more commonplace, especially in passenger vehicle segment, because of their fuel efficiency and performance benefits and the contribution they make to meeting environmental standards. New design refinement will also make the technology more affordable as Honeywell accumulates more experience in manufacturing this high-precision technology in high volumes.