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Second Major F1 Team Licenses Torotrak Technology for KERS System

A second F1 team has entered into a licence agreement with Torotrak for full-toroidal traction drive technology in a mechanically based kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) for the 2009 season. (Earlier post.)

The FIA has defined the amount of energy recovery for 2009 season as 400kJ per lap giving the driver an extra 80 hp over a period of 6.67 seconds.

The mechanical KERS system utilizes flywheel technology to recover and store a moving vehicle’s kinetic energy which is otherwise wasted when the vehicle is decelerated. The energy is received from the driveline through the Torotrak CVT as the vehicle decelerates, and is subsequently released back into the driveline, again through the CVT, as the vehicle accelerates.

The combination of the Torotrak variator, which provides mechanical efficiency in excess of 90%, with a flywheel of advanced lightweight construction, results in a highly efficient and compact energy storage system.

The licence granted to this F1 customer will allow the team to design, manufacture and assemble its own traction drive system or, at its option, source its traction drive technology and hardware from Torotrak’s existing partners Flybrid Systems and Xtrac.

Torotrak’s technology will be used by the new F1 licensee in an efficient, compact, continuously variable transmission (CVT) unit. This is a central element in the mechanical flywheel-variator KERS system as it provides a continuously variable ratio connection between the flywheel and the driveline, via the vehicle’s transmission.

A second major F1 team recognizing the benefits of the mechanical KERS system and utilizing its ability to contribute to improved performance reinforces the growing belief that our mechanical system is the most efficient KERS option for F1. It further supports the opportunity for acceptance of Torotrak's technology for use in mainstream road cars to provide improvements in performance, fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions.

—Dick Elsy, Torotrak CEO



"The FIA has defined the amount of energy recovery for 2009 season as 400kJ per lap giving the driver an extra 80 hp over a period of 6.67 seconds."

It is interesting to see how things pan out when a regulator specifies the result and lets the market find the winning product.
The FIA could have made the energy storage technology-specific by allowing 400kJ storage of energy in an elctrochemical battery as part of an HEV.

By being technology-neutral, a torotrak and lightweght flywheel mechanical storage system is able to compete.
Motor racing is the ideal application for flywheel storage because it allows fast charge & dis-charge but is limited by run-down over time (not a problem in a race lasting hours).
Flywheels with magnetic bearings are currently marketed for static use in UPS.
I wonder how the flywheels will cope with the bone-jarring harsh ride of F1 cars.
In the past motor racing has led to rapid development of many components now used in mass market cars (disk brakes etc).
Will F1 lead to a mass-market application for flywheels in vehicles?
Will F1 racing hasten the development of flywheels for stop-start vehicles: inner-city buses and garbage trucks?


This is an interesting solution; however, I would have bet that regenerative braking, super capacitors and an electric motor would have been the solution of choice. Choosing mechanical over electrical, when so much is at stake (i.e., a world championship), must indicate a decided advantage somewhere.

Alex Kovnat

The part I like best about the KERS is not so much the flywheel for regenerative braking, but the continuously variable transmission based on Torotrak technology.

Unfortunately, continuously variable transmissions for various reasons have never caught on. Some cars have been built and sold with CVT's, and all of these use the variable diameter pulley concept. The Torotrak concept has been kicked around for some time, but never put into production as far as I know.

In the course of my studies in automotive engineering at Southfield, Michigan's Lawrence Technological University, my class project is on advanced adaptive cruise control systems. Here, we use a radar sensor in conjunction with video cameras hooked to an image processing computer, to keep one's car a safe distance behind whoever's ahead.

Use of a CVT in conjunction with energy recovery and such a cruise control system, will enable intelligent management of kinetic energy to minimize the amount of fuel we need to burn to get from A to B. I wish the Torotrak organization all the best in developing their CVT concept.

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