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KERS Stumbles on Fast Path to F1 2009 Season

Several recent incidents have highlighted the development challenges associated with some of the Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) under development for the 2009 F1 racing season.

The Red Bull factory was evacuated last week as a precaution after a battery vented, and a BMW mechanic suffered an electric shock. In a column for ITV, retiring F1 Red Bull driver David Coulthard said:

As has been well documented elsewhere, there are concerns about isolating the electrical charge that is stored within the car and the volatility of the chemicals used in the lithium batteries. Formula 1 is all about the technical challenge, but usually the risk is limited to the drivers. Quite clearly KERS has opened up another area.

You can bury your head in the sand, and it’s not politically correct to talk about it, but while we are going through the development phase there is a risk that extends to people at the factory and trackside personnel. I know there are working groups looking at how to manage and overcome these issues, so hopefully a satisfactory solution will be found, but the timescale is certainly pretty tight to be ready for the start of next season.

Comments

MG

Despite minor incidents, Li batteries are far safer than gasoline.
I'm pretty sure almost all F1 teams will be using batteries and electric motor/gen as KERS, if specifications remain (max energy released 400kJ in any one lap, max power 60kW).
Red Bull and BMW (I guess) already do.
Currently available ultracaps would be too bulky for 400 kJ, may require too much room and negatively impact aerodynamics (EESTOR might change it).
In terms of control purely mechanical systems are simply inferior, and "Power is nothing without control".

Freddy

Perhaps they should start by picking the most stable batteries in the market such as A123 systems and or Altair Nano. As other battery companies match or exceed the performance of these two batteries, then the battery size can go down or stay at the same weight while storing more energy.

Freddy

Perhaps they should start by picking the most stable batteries in the market such as A123 systems and or Altair Nano. As other battery companies match or exceed the performance of these two batteries, then the battery size can go down or stay at the same weight while storing more energy.

GreenPlease

I wouldn't count ultra-caps out. F1 engineers are pretty crafty and they essentially have an unlimited budget.

Andrew

Don't want to belittle the risk of Li-ion systems, but keep it in perspective.

Look at the flame proof safety kit crews and drivers have to wear. Not forgetting the sight of Nikki Lauders face after his crash and burn.

clett

BMW F1 are using ultracaps in their KERS system.

They are likely capitalising on their experience from their BMW X5 ultracap concept which had monumental acceleration.

GreenPlease

I wonder if a hydraulic accumulator would be allowed? Would F1 regs allow for a hydraulic IVT? It would be interesting to see how an IVT would affect acceleration and driving technique.

Elliot

I question the safety of large format, high voltage batteries and the potential of their damaging effects. Seems like using a lot of smaller batteries, a la Tesla, would have less potential to shock the user if something went wrong, or if they were to be touched in the wrong place.

Batteries are likely safer than gasoline, it's just that with gasoline there's been the R&D to avoid many catastrophes that used to happen, and batteries are still on the cutting edge. It may take the zapping of one or two smart people before a solution is found. Hopefully it won't be fatal or cause long term damage. I also hope that these batteries can be made to avoid harming the environment should they spill or suffer some other nasty fate.

Henry Gibson

Hydrid is using mechanical flywheels. Electrical flywheels have more power and energy per unit weight than ultra capacitors. The EFFPOWER bipolar batteries have to be seriously considered if EFFPOWER sold any. Seventy percent of the active material is water.
It is actually very hard to build a car battery with only 400kj of energy. The energy 400,OOO watt seconds is about 0.11 kilowatt hours or 0.146 horsepower hours or nine horsepower minutes or 536 horsepower for a second or 54 horse power for ten seconds. Ultra capacitors would have to be quite large even.
..HG..

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