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.