Automotive enthusiasts looking for a quick and relatively inexpensive performance enhancement may consider electronic chips like the Sprint Booster. Designed as a plug-and-play automotive component according to the company’s website, the Sprint Booster claims to offer significant performance enhancements by modifying the signal that travels from the accelerator to the vehicle’s computer.
In 2007, engineer Dick Bipes tested the Sprint Booster and created a technical explanation of the chip and its effects. According to Bipes, the Sprint Booster interacts with a vehicle’s electronic throttle control to deliver quicker acceleration. When a driver depresses the accelerator pedal on a car with electronic throttle control, the vehicle sends a signal to the electronic control unit, or ECU, with instructions to increase the amounts of air and fuel flowing into the engine’s combustion chamber. According to Bipes, the Sprint Booster works by amplifying the accelerator’s signal, allowing it to reach the ECU at greater amplitudes.
In a typical vehicle configuration, electronic throttle control makes few adjustments to the throttle after the driver presses the accelerator pedal more than 90 percent of its maximum travel. Bipes found that the Sprint Booster modifies the accelerator’s signal, causing the ECU to increase movement of the throttle control valve when the accelerator depression nears 100 percent. This additional functionality allows the engine to receive increased throttle for a fraction of a second, potentially increasing performance at high throttle levels.
According to Sprint Booster marketing material, the Sprint Booster performance enhancing chip tunes the vehicle’s throttle response to match the driver’s intentions regardless of accelerator depression. The Sprint Booster claims to eliminate delayed responses in vehicles with electronic throttle control, making acceleration more pronounced. The Sprint Booster website notes that the additional throttle response helps drivers achieve better performance when driving up hills, quickly changing gears or passing other motorists.
Though marketing materials claim the Sprint Booster can have considerable effects on a vehicle’s acceleration, automotive enthusiasts frequently challenge these claims. In his technical white paper, Bipes conducted several tests designed to graph a vehicle’s response while comparing the Sprint Booster to normal vehicle operation. In his tests, Bipes found that the Sprint Booster did produce slight gains during some periods of acceleration. Despite these finds, though, Bipes found that he could reproduce the Sprint Booster’s effects by simply depressing the accelerator more quickly. He also found that, though the Sprint Booster did produce slight gains at 100 percent accelerator depression, the overall performance increase amounted to less than four hundredths of a second. For this reason, Bipes concluded that the Sprint Booster works by altering the driver’s perception of the vehicle’s acceleration rather than significantly altering the car’s performance.
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