Rising petrol prices of the 1970s and the roll-out of emissions regulations had a knock-on effect on how engines were designed. Big carbureted V8s lost all their muscle, and were soon replaced by measly 4-cylinder engines that were more about low consumption than anything else. Of course, buyers were robbed of the fun of big displacement. It took a few years to replace that loss of power. Electronics first made their way in fuel injection, and later on, in throttle control. BMW was one of the pioneers in this field, introducing electrically operated throttle in its 1988 E32 7 series. The car was a technological marvel, and the first to also have traction control, xenon lights and active suspension.
Other car makers soon joined the bandwagon. The shift from mechanically operated systems not only shed some weight in cars that followed, but also allowed manufacturers to squeeze out all the available power from the engine. Cars became lighter, faster, safer, more efficient and found a few extra horses along the way while also getting greener.
What is an Electronic Throttle Controller?
Electric throttle control does away with all the mechanical parts used to activate the car’s throttle. So, there are no cables from the acceleration pedal that pull on the throttle butterfly valve and open the throttle body. Instead, systems of electrically operated sensors send signals from the pedal to your car’s ECU. Sensors at the pedal determine how far down you’ve pressed the pedal and send signals to the ECU to open the throttle body to the same extent. The purpose is to reduce throttle lag. Electric throttle control in this sense manipulates the signals from the sensors to the ECU. You get better reaction times each time you put your right foot down.
Electric throttle control is part of the intricate network of other systems controlled by the onboard computer. ABS, traction control and cruise control all work in sync, so you’ll be getting the right response from the accelerator each and every time.
Benefits of Throttle Controllers
The most obvious benefit of installing an electric throttle controller is better throttle response times. The in-built hesitancy of standard systems is replaced with instant pick up of speed. This is not due to adding power, as the throttle controller in no way does this. But it changes the way the power on tap is delivered. The advantages are there for all types of vehicles and driving situations. Not only will you be quicker off a standstill, but also quicker and safer when overtaking. Think of overtaking stretches of road trains on an outback highway. Your car responds faster to the feedback it takes when you press the accelerator. And when towing a caravan or trailer, the throttle controller nulls any jumpiness in throttle reaction, but you pick up speed in a linear manner and much faster. You won’t be needlessly revving the engine, and wasting fuel, as a result, to get up to speed. In addition, with transmissions now nearing 10 gears as standard, electric throttle controllers also make gear changes smoother and quicker.
The advantages of throttle controllers are not only limited to better throttle times. Many cars still don’t have integrated eco driving modes which cut down on the throttle reaction. With the throttle controller in eco, you actually safe on fuel and get through tough terrain easier. With the throttle dialled down, wheelspin won’t be an issue when driving on soft sand, and you don’t run the risk of digging the car in. And when cruising on highways, the controller adjusts the throttle for optimal fuelling. The same goes for stop-start traffic at peak hours. In both cases, you’ll be saving some fuel.
With several modes to choose from, throttle controllers can be adjusted to the way you drive. Some models have up to 10 settings, so there’s ample space for getting the car to respond just the way you like. Modes and settings are also easy to change, and while you’re driving. If you can’t be bothered with all the adjustments, just flick the controller to auto and let it do the work for you.
Are There Any Disadvantages?
In rare cases, you’ll find that with the controller in the highest setting, the acceleration pedal is only halfway down and pressing it further makes no change to how the car responds. But this is at speeds far exceeding any speed limit. Also, you’ll have to find some to fit the controller in the vehicle. The units are small, so you shouldn’t have much trouble in this respect.
Buying and Installation
Throttle controllers are cheap to buy and available for all cars fitted with an ECU. You won’t be able to install an electric throttle controller in carburetted cars with mechanical accelerator cables without doing some changes first. But for the rest of the cars on Aussie streets, this is a simple and quick procedure. If you’re not satisfied with the controller, removing it is also quick. Different models of throttle controllers are produced locally, and can be bought at all good automotive stores.