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BMW Sauber F1 Team At Work on Electric KERS System; “Technology Accelerator” for Production Cars

The BMW Sauber F1 Team is developing an electric KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) brake energy regeneration and storage system for use in its F1.09 next year. Starting with the next season, Formula One regulations allow for the use of hybrid technology to increase the output and efficiency of the race cars. (Earlier post.)

The BMW Sauber F1.09 KERS system—a combination of electric motor and generator, the requisite power electronics and an energy storage module—will store enough energy under braking to provide an additional 60 kW of output over about 6.5 seconds of acceleration. Weighing less than 40 kg, the power density of the F1 KERS technology is considerably greater than that of the electric regen and capture systems currently used in standard production vehicles.

The newly acquired expertise will flow straight into production car development over the years to come, according to BMW.

The BMW Group can transfer the knowledge gained within the BMW Sauber F1 Team directly into the development of standard production vehicles. This makes Formula One the ideal pre-development platform for innovative drive technologies. The new Formula One regulations give us the opportunity to use innovative hybrid technology under extreme conditions and in so doing to garner crucial expertise for series development as well...The KERS unit designed for the BMW Sauber F1.09 is a highly effective variant of brake energy regeneration technology, and is similar in the way it works to the ActiveHybrid technology developed for BMW standard production vehicles.

—Dr. Klaus Draeger, member of the BMW AG Board of Management responsible for development

The BMW Group already includes a brake energy regeneration system in a large number of its series-produced models as part of its BMW EfficientDynamics package. In September 2007, the company introduced the Concept X6 ActiveHybrid—an application of the two-mode hybrid system developed in partnership with GM and DaimlerChrysler—in another concept car, the X6 “Sports Activity Coupé” at the Frankfurt Motor Show. (Earlier post.) It is also preparing to introduce BMW ActiveHybrid technology in various model series.

For us KERS is an extremely exciting project and a great opportunity. We are standing at the threshold between a conventional package of engine and independent transmission and an integrated drive system. The power density of the KERS components will far exceed that of today’s hybrid vehicles. KERS will see Formula One take on a pioneering role for series production technologies going forward.

F1 will give a baptism of fire to innovative concepts whose service life and reliability have not yet reached the level required for series production vehicles, and their development will be driven forward at full speed. At BMW we have always used the Formula One project as a technology laboratory for series production. With KERS this approach takes on a whole new dimension. Formula One will re-position itself and undergo a change of image, allowing the sport to take significant strides forward in terms of public acceptance.

—Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director

Other F1 teams are looking to mechanically based KERS solutions for the 2009 season. (Earlier post.)


Barry Bernsten

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Yeah, that's got a ways to go.

As for the KERS system, this sounds like a pretty impressive electrical hybrid system. Unless I missed something, I'm still looking forward to a flywheel/electric hybrid setup. A hybrid hybrid if you will.


60kW, 6 seconds at a time, at a weight of 40kg. Ugh.

I can see a few teams not bothering with this, 40kg of nearly dead weight in a F1 car is massive (60kW from 40kg IS dead weight in a F1 car...). Where it may be most useful is if it allows a team to carry less fuel -- each lap of fuel in a F1 car today costs around .1 to .3 (depends on the track) of a second in increased lap time. If you can carry less fuel and still do the race with 2 fuel stops, you'll save several seconds over the course of the race. Granted, you'd need to carry more than 40kg less, and that seems like a stretch.

Things will really get interesting in a couple more years when they're allowed to use heat recovery systems. Those engines put out some serious heat.


Looks like so far there are two systems in the works for F1: the fly wheel system and now this regen electric system.
Toyota has already proven this concept for a race car:
see the following link:


are hydraulic hybrids allowed in F1?, what about 4WD?


hydraulic hybrid is ok for next year. No one has gone public with a system yet.

4WD was banned in 1982. There were a few 4wd F1 cars prior to that though, see the following link.


How about an all electric F1 race using robotic battery swapping?
I know, dream on. But it's a fun idea and would be a great race.


60 kW from 40 kg is about 80 hp from 88 lbs.
That's 0.9 hp/lb for the KERS.
That's not so bad; if there are very few track sections requiring more than 6.5 seconds of full acceleration.
After 6.5 seconds of full acceleration it is dead weight.
For a 730 hp, 1550 lbs G FORCE-INFINITI Indy car at 100 miles per pit stop, 2 mpg and 7 lb/gallon fuel, a fuel load is 350 pounds. The engine, oil, water and transmission is maybe another 500 lbs so the ICE power pack is 850 lbs fuelled and 500 lbs "MT" .
That's 0.86 to 1.4 hp/lb for the ICE Pack.


I can see a few teams not bothering with this, 40kg of nearly dead weight in a F1 car is massive (60kW from 40kg IS dead weight in a F1 car...).

The minimum weight of the car with driver is 600 kg anyway. KERS just means they need less ballast.


I simply can't believe that BMW are going with electric for their KERS system....????

While I think this is certainly the way to go for passenger vehicles, for F1 the flywheel seems to have the performance advantage and most teams have already done the sums and are going with this.

Why did BMW go the electric route? Could they not find a supplier for the flywheel? Or have they made a huge advance in power electronics that gives them an efficiency advantage over previous electric KERS systems?

Speculative answers on a postcard please....!


Electrical may be more reliable and give more control. In addition capacitors can be placed anywhere - possibly improving weight distribution and center of gravity.


And just maybe a flywheel in a crash is more difficult to contain.

Bob Tasa
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I like globi's answer.

They will probably place the capacitors around the car as ballasts. Current engines run at 19,000rpm. No reason an electric motor cannot operate at that speed.

If BMW is going to sink a couple million into the development of this system, they might as well make it a relevant carry over to their car business. Think "EfficientDynamics 2.0"


I think we'll have to wait for Ferrari's & McLaren's announcements on energy recovery systems. To find out which system works best in F1.


As far as I've heard, both Ferrari and MacLaren are going with the Flybrid system (that's one small company that's done very well for itself over the last year!)

While most teams have bought the stock Flybrid system from the company, at least one (unnamed) team has asked the same company to create a bespoke, souped up version according to more demanding specifications.


60kW with a weight of 40 kg is very interesting. The fact that it's only for a few seconds is not relevant. When you want a car with a lot of power, it's only for great acceleration. Whatever car you drive, you don't need 200kW to drive at 150 km/h continuously. 50 kW can do that for any car. Obviously you don't accelerate for 60 seconds (that would bring you at 1000 km/h). So, a modest ICE that can keep you at your cruse speed is powerfull enough (eventually a little more in case you have a long driving uphill). Any desired power above that is only for short bursts of energy. Therefore 60kW extra for a a few seconds is realy as good as 60kW continuously. Except that this system doesn't consume energy, it only recycles it.


Alain | Jul 18, 2008 10:29:17 AM

Correct until you get to speeds above about 100km/hr. Remember that most production cars max out b/w 200-240km/hr and that is at peak kW output. Only a few cars have enough power to actually be governed at 240, and those all have 250+kW.

An F1 car, on the other hand, is using 400+kW at speeds over 300km/hr regularly.


In order to drive 220 km/h as opposed to 150 km/h you need about 3.15 times more power.

If a car with 150 kW can drive 220 km/h, 50 kW should be sufficient to drive 150 km/h continously.


BMW have just suffered a setback in their KERS development programme:

A BMW mechanic touched the sidepod after a run with the new ultracap system and got an electric shock. In previous testing at their private circuit, and on the dyno, the KERS system worked fine.

On another note, this article appears to cite that Red Bull Racing are going with BATTERIES for their system!!!! I smell titanate....


BMW must be using some LiIon battery, not an ultracap system.
I can conclude that from the energy capacity in the text (here at the top), and knowing what ultracap sizes are available from leading maker Maxwell (unless they got something from EESTOR).
There are several LiIon batteries available that could meet such high power demands, and weigh below 10 kg. Batteries can also be placed around as balast, and are much smaller in size than ultracaps, which is good for aerodynamics.

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