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Formula One goes hybrid
August 30, 2006 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Two Formula One builders are teaming up to build what will no doubt be the fastest hybrid on the planet. I was saving for a Prius, but I think I'll hold out for this one!
posted by jacob hauser (29 comments total)

 
If the power of the engines were the same, would racers gain a substantial advantage in having to refuel less? Just wondering if there is an immediate advantage for the sport (but not knowing anything about it).
posted by pokermonk at 9:15 AM on August 30, 2006


I would love to see F1 become the preeminent technological showcase again. Most of our modern cars systems were a direct result of developments in the eighties and nineties, but have since waned as your average passanger car now has better electronic systems. Aero development have supplanted electronic as the way to win in F1 because of rules being changed.

Dynamic stability, antilock brakes, active suspension, fuel injection were all developed/perfected in F1, nowadays their contribution to the world of autos is...uhhh...well nothing really.

I'd love a rebirth as a technological development series.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:15 AM on August 30, 2006


If the power of the engines were the same, would racers gain a substantial advantage in having to refuel less?

No, probably not, but you would have a huge advantage in not having to carry that fuel around. Reduced weight equals reduced lap times due to quicker acceleration, shorter braking distances etc.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:17 AM on August 30, 2006


The article says that -

Two big players who build such Formula One dream machines, N.Technology S.p.a. and Tatuus s.r.l.,

- I know it's pedantic, but they're not Formula One constructors, they're chassis builders for a few of the lower racing formulae. The car in the photograph is a Formula Renault machine (Renault didn't build it by the way, they sponsor the series and provide tech information).
posted by tomcosgrave at 9:23 AM on August 30, 2006


A hybrid/regenerative braking system does not necessarily require the main gas engine to be reduced in output. The hybrid system could instead be viewed as a power enhancement.

All the power that is produced to accelerate an F1 car is thrown away when braking for the next corner. If that power could be stored with regenerative braking, it could be used again to accelerate the car in the next straight.

In the end, the hybrid is not producing more power than the F1 car already has. It is simply not wasting the power that current F1 cars waste when braking.
posted by jsonic at 9:28 AM on August 30, 2006


Thsi is exactly what electric technology needs to drag it out of the gutless econo-machine category and onto some much more ectiting drafting tables. Once this kind of deep passionate money gets involved we'll start to see rudely powerful electric vehicles people actually want to buy, and the price of parts/development will drop dramatically.
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:36 AM on August 30, 2006


In essence, hybrids are currently marketed as fuel-economy devices. The idea is:

small gas engine + hybrid = normal horsepower with better gas mileage

This equation could also be modified to be a performance product. Think of a bolt-on hybrid system for your Corvette. This idea would be:

normal gas engine + hybrid = more horsepower with normal gas mileage
posted by jsonic at 9:43 AM on August 30, 2006


you would have a huge advantage in not having to carry that fuel around. Reduced weight equals reduced lap times due to quicker acceleration, shorter braking distances etc.

Too bad batteries are heavy.
posted by smackfu at 9:54 AM on August 30, 2006


Too bad batteries are heavy.

Yeah, but if the hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of hours F1 engineers currently spend tweaking front wing configurations was spent developing lightweight battery packs, then they become effective.
posted by Keith Talent at 10:00 AM on August 30, 2006


Also note that electric motors have max torque starting at 0 RPM. You would then be recycling electrically generated energy between the electric motor and the regenerative brake system, much like the modern electric train. But in racing, it's all about max torque at 0.
posted by linux at 10:07 AM on August 30, 2006


I'd love a rebirth as a technological development series.

Me too. I'd like to see turbine engines with electric drive and electromagnetic braking.

would racers gain a substantial advantage in having to refuel less?

Some maybe, but unless there were rules against it you'd want to come in and get new tires every so often.

As it is now, racers often find it better to run a race with less fuel and make two or three stops even though they could do it with one stop.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:24 AM on August 30, 2006


Actually, I retract everything else, the tech F1 should work on is joining the rest of the sporting world in 2004 and making their broadcasts HiDef. 720p makes Nascar look good, imagine what it'd do to a Renault.
posted by Keith Talent at 10:32 AM on August 30, 2006


Instead of holding out for the F1, a Tesla (mentioned in the original post) seems much more practical, what with two seats and everything.
posted by TedW at 10:34 AM on August 30, 2006


I've often wondered whether F1 cars could benefit from a hybrid drivetrain with electric motors driving the front wheels. Employing two more wheels for traction could double acceleration (nearly, minus weight shift). There's probably a rule against 4wd though, just as there will be against hybrid drivetrains if they're successful. That's F1.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:35 AM on August 30, 2006


Great, even less passing.
posted by letitrain at 10:41 AM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]


But in racing, it's all about max torque at 0.
Could you point out to me that part of the race, other than at the start, where the cars stop? The start is quite important, but it's hardly everything. Perhaps you meant drag racing?
posted by wzcx at 11:11 AM on August 30, 2006


Crappy Gizmodo article that links to a crappy Jalopnik article that links to a crappy Gizmag article that doesn't even link to the source. I love gadget blogs.
posted by cillit bang at 11:44 AM on August 30, 2006


cillit bang, and the car also has "recursive braking"!

I'm sad the Gadget Blog Corrections Blog isn't kept up.
posted by zsazsa at 12:04 PM on August 30, 2006


The power curves for electric and gasoline engines have a wonderful fit, which anyone who has driven a Prius understands. Electric engines have more torque at the lowest RPMs - it's easy to slow a quickly spinning electric motor, but very difficult to bring it to a halt. Gas engines have more torque at higher RPMs - it's easy to halt a gas engine just as it starts up (think chocks) but very difficult to slow it down at top speed.

So in a racing situation, if you powered (say) front with hybrid and rear with gas, and you somehow created a dual transmission system (Prius has a continuously variable one now that is fantastic) you could keep up high revs with aggressive downshifting on the rear, and keep lower revs with a variable transmission system on the front, thus getting the very best of both worlds simultaneously. Formula One has lots of tight curves which would make this very useful. Would be pretty useless for Indy racing (unless there was some gas-saving advantage, which I seriously doubt).
posted by johngumbo at 12:21 PM on August 30, 2006


I'm not sure this sucker would carry batteries. If they are going mainly for performance, they might just use capacitors, or a flywheel battery (explosive wrecks?). On the other hand, they may come up with a modular design of capacitors and batteries that is tuned to each track they want to tackle. They don't have to store a lot of energy, just enough to re-accellerate the car to the point where the gas engine has high torque (IANAE).
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:07 PM on August 30, 2006


Well, it all looks cool but it isn't Formula One [pdf file]:
5.2 Other means of propulsion :
Plus, it's only 250HP, so, technical restrictions aside, they have some work to do before the car would be even close to competitive.
posted by Opposite George at 1:08 PM on August 30, 2006


The torque that could be gained would be of interest. But as was mentioned above, these aren't F1 constructors or cars. Open wheel, yes, F1, no.
posted by juiceCake at 1:09 PM on August 30, 2006


Could you point out to me that part of the race, other than at the start, where the cars stop? The start is quite important, but it's hardly everything. Perhaps you meant drag racing?

I'll point out that having max torque at 0 RPM means you have all your power in the lower RPM band where gas does not. This then points out the parts in a race where this is beneficial.
posted by linux at 1:52 PM on August 30, 2006


As other people have already pointed out, it isn't Formula 1, it's Formula, period. These builders are possibly thinking about some kind of "Formula Hybrid" one-make race series.
And TedW, as for the Tesla you mention, is everybody blind or why else am I the only person in the world noticing that it is a Lotus Elise with an electric motor and diferent plastic body panels?! With respect to its practicality, I drive an Opel Speedster, which is just another Elise-in-drag, and it is not even remotely practical. Fun, yes. Practical, no. No power steering, no power windows, no air conditioning, a ridiculous fan, and even more ridiculous heater, nearly no luggage space, a tiny fuel tank, a rock hard suspension and an unholy combination of tiny doors and huge sills that turns getting in and out of the car into an exercise worthy of Nadia Comaneci. Fun drive, though...
posted by Skeptic at 2:53 PM on August 30, 2006


I have a scale die-cast model of the Speedster, which I think is the closest you can get to one in the US.
posted by smackfu at 3:13 PM on August 30, 2006


I have a scale die-cast model of the Speedster, which I think is the closest you can get to one in the US.

Supposedly the next generation of the Opel Speedster will be based on the Saturn Sky.
posted by gyc at 3:20 PM on August 30, 2006


I doubt the veracity of this.

I know that six months ago Max Mosley (the head of the FIA (F1's governing body)) mentioned that adding hybrid drive trains and regenererative breaking would enhance the sport and might be added to the technical regs from 2008, but that it would be up to the manufacturers technical working group.

And that was about it: a mention.

Further, as others have pointed out, stating that, "Two big players who build such Formula One dream machines, N.Technology S.p.a. and Tatuus s.r.l., ... " is just inaccurate.

And as far as I'm concerned if these guys can't even get basic facts like that correct, why should I give them any credence?

There's no reason why you couldn't run hybrid drive trains and regenererative breaking, but if you ask me, they should run it in another class, like touring cars or sports prototypes.

As an aside, there are people that are beginning to build and race electric motorcycles, and that looks like a real hoot (if I was coordinated enough to ride a motorbike in the first place).
posted by Relay at 3:42 PM on August 30, 2006


I'm sad the Gadget Blog Corrections Blog isn't kept up.

Happy happy joy joy
posted by cillit bang at 4:38 PM on August 30, 2006


Yep, this is just another "formula" class: "Formula N.T07". (catchy, huh?) The 250hp 4-cyl engine is specified by the rules -- it probably will be built and sealed to prevent enhancement tampering. This spec is NOT intended to be a Formula One replacement. I suspect that the "OMFG!! F1 is going hybrid!!!1!" is pure speculation and hype, although I'd love to see it happen.

For the uninitiated, there are many, many slower "Formula" classes. In the SCCA (U.S. amateur racing league -- similar to FIA in Europe), there's Formula Ford, Formula Atlantic (Toyota), Formula Mazda, Formula Vee (VW), Formula Dodge, and a few others. They are commonly seen as trainer open wheel classes for aspiring F1 drivers (well, more Champ/IRL in the US), but there's no official relationship AFAIK. (Sorry, I'm way more familiar with the SCCA than FIA...)

FWIW, a 250hp + ?electric? in a light winged open wheel race car will be very fast. Not nearly as fast as F1, mind you, but the 260-290hp Formula Atlantics are the quickest cars in the SCCA today. And they will be expensive. It typically costs $0.5-1M to campaign FA for a season.

This equation could also be modified to be a performance product. ...
normal gas engine + hybrid = more horsepower with normal gas mileage


There are several models out there that do this already. The Hybrid Honda Accord is the quickest Accord currently made. I, personally, think there's a bigger market in today's $3/gallon U.S. for a modestly-powered 40mpg Accord than big-power 30mpg Accord, but nobody asked me...
posted by LordSludge at 9:30 PM on August 30, 2006


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