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Williams F1 Establishes Technical Center in Qatar; Initial Focus on Commercial Development of Magnetically Loaded Composite Flywheel

CAD rendering of the MLC flywheel. Source: WHP. Click to enlarge.

Williams F1 and the Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP) formally signed an agreement to inaugurate the Williams Technology Center (WTC). QSTP is a world-class incubator for the research, development and commercialization of new technologies that has attracted significant R&D investment from companies such as Shell, Microsoft and GE.

The Williams Technology Center at QSTP will be the first Formula One-related Technical Center outside the sport’s traditional heartland of Europe. The WTC will initially be tasked with the progression of two Formula One inspired R&D projects with clear commercial goals. The first is the development of an industrial-application large Magnetically Loaded Composite (MLC) flywheel—essentially a wholly composite flywheel which integrates the magnets of the electric motor into the composite.

The second is the advancement of Williams F1’s simulator know-how for competition and road car application.

WHP flywheel unit. Click to enlarge.

MLC flywheel. The MLC flywheel project will address the potential of flywheels to store and release energy very quickly, which makes the technology suitable for a variety of applications. Initial target markets are mass transit systems (both for recycling the kinetic energy of trains and trams and to allow discontinuous electrification to reduce infrastructure costs) and electric power stabilization for renewable energy applications.

Williams Hybrid Power (WHP, formerly Automotive Hybrid Power Limited prior to acquisition in 2008 of a significant shareholding by Williams F1) is developing a version of its flywheel system for use as the energy storage element of Williams F1’s Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS).

WHP has taken the electrically-powered integral motor flywheel design—itself an improvement from earlier mechanical flywheel systems with a continuously variable transmission to transfer power to and from the flywheel—and radically improved its performance characteristics by incorporating Magnetically Loaded Composite (MLC) technology.

The MLC technology, developed in the nuclear industry by Urenco, incorporates the permanent magnets of the integral motor/generator into the composite structure of the flywheel itself by mixing magnetic powder into the resin matrix. This enables a flywheel system that can be made significantly smaller and lighter than conventional flywheels.

In the event of a burst failure, the containment has to withstand only the crushing force of the composite material, which is far less than the load of discrete metallic fragments. The reduced containment requirement minimizes the overall weight of the system.

According to WHP, the magnetic particles in the composite are magnetized as a Halbach Array after the rotor is manufactured avoiding the need for backing iron to direct the flux. As the magnets in an MLC flywheel are comprised of tiny particles and there is no additional metal in the structure, the eddy current losses of the machine are significantly reduced.

This can result in one-way efficiencies of up to 99%. The ultra-high efficiency means thermal management of the system is easier and it can be continuously cycled with no detriment to performance or reduction in life.

The 2009 FIA regulations allow a KERS fitted to a Formula One car to collect and store energy during braking at a maximum rate of 60 kW. Up to 400 kJ of this stored energy can then be re-introduced into the drivetrain each lap at a rate of up to 60 kW; an increase in overall power of about 10% for 7 seconds. Drivers have a boost button allowing them to deploy this extra energy tactically during a race, for instance in order to overtake.

As designed for F1, the WHP MLC flywheel-based KERS system offers:

  • A cycle life of around 10 million charge discharge cycles—far greater than the few thousand of current chemical batteries.

  • Continuous cycling with no detriment to performance or reduction in life.

  • Specific power and power density superior to that of ultracapacitors and with significantly greater specific energy and energy density. Specific power = 3.0 kW/kg. Specific energy = 32.5 kJ/kg.

MLC Flywheel Evaluation for Transportation by University of Texas. Earlier in October, The Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE), an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization, awarded the Southern Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Coalition (SHFCC) Flywheel Demonstration Seed Project Grant to the University of Texas – Center for Electromechanics (UT-CEM).

Their proposal, “Assessment of Flywheel Technology Emerging from the Formula One Racing Community and its Benefits to the US Transit Bus Market,” seeks to evaluate the performance and cost benefits of WHP’s MLC flywheel technology for heavy-duty vehicles in the US market.

The program objective is to determine if this new flywheel energy storage technology provides next-generation fuel cell transit buses with either improved performance or reduced operational cost, or both. The $25K collaboration between UT-CEM and WHP will consist of a 6-month project period.

Simulation. Based on the extensive experience of proprietary driver-in-the-loop (DIL) simulator development for Formula One, the second aspect to the WTC program will be the development of new driver simulation technology for road car training, safety and entertainment, as well as competition simulators for other motorsport series.

The Williams Technology Center is anticipated to employ 20 staff with a double digit million dollar R&D budget, funded by QSTP and Williams F1, and a projected revenue stream that will reward both Williams F1 and QSTP for their investment and support future project ambitions.

To celebrate the announcement, the Qatar Science & Technology Park identity will form a prominent element of the team’s on-car race livery for this weekend’s inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

QSTP is part of the Qatar Foundation which also incorporates Education City, which hosts overseas campuses for six US universities including Carnegie Mellon and Texas A&M.



60kW in and out would be pretty handy for V2G and with a million cycles there's no worry on battery degredation.

I think F1 need to take the limits off KERS, improving fuel consumption would reduce pitstops and the technology would filter down to road vehicles.

A rear engine, rear wheel drive vehicle with one of these connected to the front axle would be very fun!


A specific energy density of 32.5 Kj/Kg is equivalent to a very mediocre small 9 Wh/Kg battery. It is not much better than current ultra caps and a lot less the many future ultra caps on the drawing board.

Good quality ultra caps can also sustain 1 000 000 + cyles and can stay charged for extended time between cycles while flywheels normally grinds down to a complete stop within a few hours.

Direct e-storage is way ahead of complex mechanical machines.


As Harvey pointed out, the energy density here is really only 9Wh/kg which is very low. Even current, MASS PRODUCED AND AVAILABLE supercaps provide 5.5Wh/kg and mass produced 10Wh/kg start before the end of this year by multiple major supercap manufacturers.

And the power density is even worse for this flywheel system. Only 3kW/kg??? Maxwell has mass production of 17.5kW/kg supercaps available TODAY.

Why are we excited about a new flywheel that is in some prototype stage when it's not even close to what is available with currently produced supercaps?

Oh, by the way...supercaps are on a path to nearly follow "Moore's Law" type increases for the next 2-3 years. They are already moving from 5.5Wh/kg to 10Wh/kg and there are 20Wh/kg systems already in development and working. And the power density improvements look even better.

I don't know what this flywheel system will cost, but with the new supercaps coming online at 10Wh/kg, it would only take about 10 "new, improved, BCAP3000" modules to provide 60kW for 7 seconds and that would cost about $600 with any type of volume purchase. These modules are scheduled to go into mass production by the end of this year or the first quarter next year. When would that flywheel be ready for mass production and what would it cost?

The supercaps would weigh about 1/3rd for the same energy density.
The supercaps would weigh about 1/10th for the same power density.
And the supercaps will probably cost a lot less.

That flywheel better have some magic that we're not aware of.


The A123 batteries used by MacLaren are running at 20 kW/kg during the race.

I agree that the FIA should lift all the restrictions on KERS allowances during a lap. That way F1 can return to where it should be, at the top of the technical development tree. At the moment it's a fairly pathetic exercise of merely continuing to increase the rpms of the primitive reciprocating internal combustion engines that are in concept barely advanced from their first inception in the 1860s.


I'm not great with the numbers and not fully confident on how to interpret the critter.
Harvey, Dave,
This machine seems to incorporate the "generator motor" and continuously variable drive input to a conventional transmission, Could that be why the E- energy density seems low. that the energy is stored magnetically?

Compared to caps, emotor, controller, trans etc

that does suggest a benefit as an adjunct to the F1 and other "mostly mechanical" devices. that may not be relevant to series Electric hybrid.
Or maybe I'm way off track.


The composite flywheel acts as both a mechanical/ electrical engine/gen/emotor.
So in effect a super capacitor equivalent storage device.
Some energy bleeds off to the A123 battery, but the energy produced that is not efficiently transferable to the battery will remain as dynamic centrifugal force.
This **mechanical** storage is then available to the main drivetrain via the **continuously variable** transmission.

Simple really! Goes to show what a good nights sleep can do.

I can see how this would have the potential the builders describe, but I'll leave the numbers to Harvey.
I love picking on Harvey.


I think you're pointing out an even bigger disadvantage for the flywheel. It has to have a motor/genset to change the energy back and forth from kinetic to electrical as it releases energy to drive the "motive" electric motor for the vehicle or to take energy back from it during regen braking.

This is an entire system that is not needed with the supercaps as they use electrical energy both coming and going.

As you said, all this is needed to make "a super capacitor equivalent storage device"

So that 3kW/kg is a best case number and could only get worse if they didn't include the weight of these additional components that are needed for the flywheel system.


Oh, by the way....they have officially killed KERS for the F1 series next year. After all the money they spent (an average of $25million per team), they are going to throw it all away to save money next year.

What a shame, they did all the hard work and never saw any real gains because they put in an artificial limit of less than 7 seconds of KERS use per lap.

Now F1 is retreating from being cutting edge tech and will go back to trying to find ways to cheat by adding a little extra fuel here and there or having one of their drivers crash at an opportune moment to give advantage to his team mate. Don't laugh, Renault just got busted for that and has admitted it. Pathetic all around.

I'm going to support Le Mans and American Le Mans (ALMS) because they are the only body actively providing classes and rules to encourage green, efficient technology to move all auto tech forward.


By the way, I ought to add that a flywheel storage system will never work in an F1 car because of the gyroscopic inertia they create.

No matter what axis you mount them on, they will resist the car turning in a direction it needs to turn in to go fast, be it round a corner, rolling off a kerb, or cresting a hill (x, y or z axes).


Makes the whole idea sound like a powered gyroscope direction device on steroids.
I guess a suitable gimbal mount could help.

Roger Pham

The MLC flywheel can release electricity directly, since it is a built-in generator, with magnetic particles embedded within the composite material matrix. The MLC flywheel can act as an electrical motor as well, when current is fed to it.

So, in effect, the MLC flywheel are 4-in-1 device: battery, motor, generator, and mechanical flywheel energy storage all combined. A supercapacitor or battery can only store electricity, but still need a motor/generator and a mechanical flywheel to be equal to the function of the MLC flywheel.

Because it can dump mechanical energy real quickly to the driving wheels, there is no need for an electric motor nor large-size and expensive power electronics. For a quick burst of power, the flywheel will power the car directly from its mechanical energy storage. Significant weight and cost saving in that regard from having expensive electrical drive train.


Thanks Roger,
The gimble wouldn't work anyway as aside from complicating any drive train though not impossible.....
The centripedal forces must still be borne by the vehicle.

note ceramic bearings, and the continious variable suggesting intense acceleration and power delivery.

Carlos Fandango

All very technical. I conclude this will NOT revolutionize the auto industry anytime soon.

No revolving puns intended.


From this extract posted in gcc

"Research conducted by Fincantieri, a shipyard in Italy, indicates that a 2% gain in efficiency can be realized—a significant improvement for large commercial vessels. The coefficient of friction for water, while higher than oil at low propeller shaft speeds, is actually lower at higher shaft speeds."

And here a we see reference to ceramic bearings that I have only ever seen in water or unlubricated sytems?
Just a thought.

Henry Gibson

Flywheels have an advantage that there needs to be no multiple protection of the low voltage ultracap cells.

The electronics needed to control both flywheels and ultra-caps are similar. The gyroscopic effect can be used to advantage or disadvantage or even neutralized by proper mounting.

Power density can be made very high. Energy density depends on how much material is used and the density per unti strength of the material. Flywheels can be designed to not run down for days but this is not important for automobile acceleration. A modification of the EFFPOWER battery may be much better than both flywheels and ultra-caps. ..HG..

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