Turbochargers are so common in today’s cars that it’s rarely worth mentioning them. Except in a few high-performance cases, telling someone that your car has a turbo has about the same effect as talking about the radio or air-conditioning. The lack of these things is more surprising than their presence.

Things weren’t always this way. For a long time there were no turbo cars at all, and later there was a period when turbocharging an engine was just about the most exciting thing you could do to it.

This was all about performance, and that’s still an element today. In recent years, however, manufacturers have been fitting turbochargers principally to improve their cars’ fuel economy and CO2 emissions. What follows is an explanation of how we came to this point.

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