A groundbreaking mechanical kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) currently under development for Formula 1 by three British companies – Flybrid, Torotrak and Xtrac – has been voted ‘Engine Innovation of the Year’ by a distinguished panel of motorsport expers. The honour for the technical achievement was presented at the Professional MotorSport World Expo Awards ceremony held this week in Cologne. The award was well received by the 1,000 international motorsport professionals attending the awards presentation and gala dinner, who clearly appreciated the significance of new rules in motor racing stimulating a new technology highly relevant to the development of future road cars. The fast-acting flywheel system offers up to twice the efficiency of current generation hybrid electric vehicles in the storage of
recovered vehicle kinetic energy.
Graham Heeps editor of Professional MotorSport World and one of the judges said: “Flybrid, Torotrak and Xtrac are on course to succeed where others have failed by delivering an efficient yet safe flywheel energy recovery system for applications on the racetrack and beyond.”
Roland Schedel, editor-in-chief, Auto Technology, who also served on the awards panel, added: “Having had this interesting technology explained at the Global Motorsport Congress, I’m convinced that this system will appear in more motorsport events and road car series production and I congratulate these three companies on their success.”
Jon Hilton, managing partner of Flybrid Systems, and Chris Brockbank, business development manager of Torotrak, stepped forward to receive the award on behalf of all three companies. Acknowledging their delight at winning the award and commenting on the companies’ fast track achievement over the past 12 months Jon Hilton said: “We’re delighted to receive this award in recognition of our efforts this year, whereby we’ve already achieved a huge amount simply by turning an idea into reality. With the design, test and development of a system for F1 now well underway, our challenge for next year is to demonstrate the viability of the system for mainstream automotive applications.”
Dick Elsy, chief executive of Torotrak, added: “Our three businesses have applied their combined knowledge and technical capabilities to deliver an innovative solution to the challenge presented to the industry by the FIA. The rate of technology development in this industry is tremendous. We are already looking at applications beyond F1 and into road cars.”
“We’re proud to receive this award and pleased we’ve been able to apply our transmission and materials expertise,” said Martin Halley, chief engineer with Xtrac. “Xtrac has been involved in MIA energy efficient motorsport initiatives since as far back as 2001, when we first considered the pros and cons of kinetic energy recovery. Obviously, we have to work to the rules permitted within motorsport regulations; therefore we’re pleased with the decision by the FIA to permit energy recovery in Formula 1 – particularly since it will provide a unique opportunity to demonstrate a new technology which could be extremely relevant to the wider automotive industry.”
The role played by Flybrid, Torotrak and Xtrac in designing a KERS solution for F1 could be highly instrumental in developing this pioneering vehicle technology for more fuel efficient road cars, especially important at a time of spiralling fuel prices and tighter emission regulations, without resorting to the expense and complexity of battery systems. Compared with hybrid electric vehicles, which use batteries for energy storage, a mechanical KERS system utilises flywheel technology as a highly efficient alternative to recover and store a moving vehicle’s kinetic energy. The flywheel kinetic energy recovery system employs a small and sophisticated
ancillary transmission manufactured by Xtrac incorporating full toroidal traction drive technology licensed from Torotrak. Torotrak’s patented technology is a vital element in a mechanical system as it provides a continuously variable connection (a CVT ‘variator’) between the flywheel and the vehicle driveline and is being developed for motorsport applications by Xtrac, who can design, manufacture, assemble and distribute complete variator systems and discrete components. Xtrac can sub-license the Torotrak ‘variator’ technology to Flybrid and other motorsport teams who may wish to design and develop their own mechanical system.
With a major racing team already signed up to use the mechanical KERS system for the F1 application in the 2009 season, the combination of the variator and advanced lightweight flywheel will most likely form part of the driveline assembly. The energy is received from the driveline through the variator as the vehicle decelerates and is subsequently released back into the driveline, again through the variator, as the vehicle accelerates.
The FIA has defined the amount of energy recovery for the 2009 season as 400kJ per lap giving the driver an extra 80bhp over a period of 6.67 seconds. Flybrid, Torotrak and Xtrac believe that compared to the alternative of battery systems, a mechanical KERS system can provide a more compact, lighter and environmentally friendly solution.
Applied to road cars the system supports the current motor industry trend for smaller powertrains; a lightweight kinetic energy recovery system providing a means of boosting acceleration and overall performance and economy independently of the vehicle’s internal combustion engine.
The Professional MotorSport World Expo awards were judged by an international jury of 13 motorsport experts comprising Michael Andretti, CEO, Andretti Green Racing; Ulrich Baretzky, head of engine technology, Audi Sport; Ian Bickerton, team principal, Creation Autosportif; Jost Capito, director, Ford Team RS; Trevor Carlin, co-founder and managing director, Carlin Motorsport; Tim Edwards, team principal, Ford Performance Racing; Jonas Jarlmark, chief engineer, Flash Engineering; Armin Schwarz, team principal, All-German Motorsports; Marc Van Dalen, team principal, Kronos Racing; Roland Schedel, editor-in-chief, Auto Technology; David Tremayne freelance motorsport writer; Kim Wolfkill, publisher, MSN Autos; and Graham Heeps editor Professional MotorSport World magazine.