Last January, we reported about Honda’s plans to put a supercharger on a future V-twin engine. This is intended for a future sportbike model and could go head to head against Kawasaki's H2. It seems that Honda is also planning to supercharge its flagship adventure bike, the Africa Twin.
Just recently, the Japan Patents Office received engineering patents from Honda, depicting what appears to be a supercharger that’s powered via the engine’s crankshaft. News articles about this Honda design suggest that if it goes into production, this supercharger could provide a linear boost right from idle to top end. It also means that power and torque are readily available even on the lower RPMs. This is exactly what an adventure rider needs on the tight sections of a trail during an off-road ride.
What's a supercharger?
A supercharger is a kind of forced induction device that drives more air into the engine’s combustion chamber. By forcing more air into the engine, the air pressure is increased, creating even greater combustion and more power. There's more oxygen inside to burn more fuel and that equals increased engine power output.
Another kind of forced induction device is a turbo. The turbo brings more air into an engine by using the pressure of exhaust gases to drive propellers that suck in more air into the intake. Unlike a supercharger, turbos use air pressure, and as such, usually deliver more power in the top end. New technology can reduce the turbo lag time. However, to produce more power at the low end, a supercharger that is physically driven by and in sync with the engine is the best solution.
This development also suggests that it could be a way for Honda to squeeze more power from the engine and at the same time meet the even tighter emissions regulations around the globe.
While this development may sound awesome, it may have a few drawbacks as well.
Because the supercharger essentially raises the pressure in the combustion chamber, it may be prudent to fuel up with high octane fuels. Unfortunately, this is is hard to find in far-flung areas or remote localities. Devices like superchargers and turbos also result in poorer fuel economy, decreasign the range of bike that needs all the range it can get.
Another possible drawback is the increased overall weight of the Africa Twin brought about by the additional apparatus. Rather than being driven by a belt like conventional superchargers, this uses a series of gears. But as the design patent suggests, it's relatively small and compact, needing to supercharge only two cylinders. If there’s any weight gain it should only be minimal.
Finally, because adventuer riders frequently ride into the wilderness where repairs usually have to be improvised, they live by the mantra: less parts, the less to break. We all know that adventure riders go to the world’s end, and having a breakdown days away from the nearest city doesn’t sound so nice. Traveling on dirt roads during an adventure ride could potentially damage the supercharger due to dust.
But then again, this is a Japanese-made motorcycle and they are known throughout to be more reliable than their European counterparts. By know, they're very familiar with the needs of adventure riders, and will likely keep reliability and durability in mind.