By Sanni Joensuu
When you start thinking about car races, the first thing that comes to mind as an environmental engineer is the huge amount of money spent on them, and the serious environmental impacts they have. A large number of cars and personnel are transported from country to country to races, only to damage more of our valuable and precious environment. Not to mention the amount of people who also travel to watch the race…
However, could there still be some greater meaning for this? Something that we as regular people could actually learn from Formula 1? My opinion is that there is.
Most people do not know what KERS, or ERS, or other abbreviations mean. KERS is short for Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems, which was introduced to the sport in 2009. KERS works so that it harnesses the waste energy that is created during the braking. Rather than letting it escape as heat it is transformed into energy. In an F1 engine the energy is stored in a flywheel or in a battery. This provides an additional 60 kilowatts of power up to 6.67 seconds. For readers that do not follow F1, this is a huge amount of power.
This innovation could soon be available to ordinary drivers, too. Volvo has tested adding KERS with a flywheel into regular road cars. The results show that in a four cylinder set up with KERS, the fuel consumption can be reduced by 25 percent when compared to a similar car with a six cylinder setup. In addition, the technique gives additional power of 60 kilowatts, which makes the four cylinder setup car accelerate like a six cylinder setup car.
Figure 1. Kimi Räikkönen driving Lotus in 2013.
In 2014, a new system was taken into use in F1 and it is called ERS, Energy Recovery Systems. ERS consists of two energy recovery systems: Motor Generator Unit- Kinetic (MGU-K) and Motor Generator Unit- Heat (MGU-H). In addition, Energy Store (ES) and control electronics are part of ERS. MGU-K works in similar way to KERS, by transforming kinetic energy into electricity. MGU- H then transforms the heat energy from exhaust gases into electrical energy. This energy can then be used for MGU- K or stored in the energy store. This means an addition of approximately 120 kilowatts for 33 seconds, when compared to 60 kilowatts for 6,67 seconds.
Moreover, the new regulations for 2014 in F1 have a 100 kilogram limit for fuel per race, when before 160 kilograms of fuel could be used. This means that more testing and optimising is needed to get the maximal benefit from the limited amount of fuel.
Doesn’t this sound very energy efficient and energy saving? The hybrid techniques of energy saving and energy efficiency of the fuels can also be transferred into our own road cars; or at least the information gotten can be developed for further use. Therefore, making the formula cars faster and more efficient does not always mean waste of money and environmental degradation.
For more information, check the references.