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Formula 1 going hybrid - 1.6 liter turbos, KERS ... and compound turbocharging too


December 8, 2010

The 1988 McLaren MP4 was the most successful F1 car in history, winning 15 of 16 races.

The 1988 McLaren MP4 was the most successful F1 car in history, winning 15 of 16 races.

The world's most watched sporting series, Formula One, is set to announce a new greener formula later this week, which will take effect in 2013. The rule changes are expected to see the introduction of 1.6 liter turbo engines with more powerful energy recovery systems, reduced maximum rpm (from 18,000 rpm to 10,000 rpm) and fuel (flow and capacity) restrictions, and can be expected to further the sport's objective of encouraging R&D; relevant to road cars. While the targeted 30% initial improvement in gas mileage will only improve the current obscenely wasteful 3 mpg to 4 mpg (approx 70 liters/100 km) in 2013, it will enroll the brightest automotive technicians on the planet in a quest for greater efficiency from our automobiles and that's a wonderful outcome.

No official announcements have yet been made, but indications leaking from the teams indicate that the new formula allows for a reduction of engine capacity from the existing naturally-aspirated 2400cc to twin turbocharged 1600cc four-cylinder engines with 3 bar boost and 10,000 rpm limit (currently 18,000), targeting a power output of between 500 and 550 bhp. The output from the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) is expected to be increased to 112kw (150 HP) for a total of 650 to 700 bhp.

The energy storage (battery, super capacitor or flywheel) capacity for the KERS is expected to be set at 2200 kJ, which will mean roughly 150 bhp extra for 24 seconds a lap.

Formula One is the pinnacle of human competitiveness in a sporting event. At the pointy end of the field, each team employs hundreds of employees to hover over computer screens monitoring every single suspension movement, and turn of a wheel whenever a car takes to a circuit. The amount of money spent in the quest for competitiveness is almost obscene. Toyota spent more than a billion dollars one year and didn't even win a race before it pulled out of the competition due to the financial drain, just as Honda and Ford had done before it.

Testing is so expensive to do in a Formula One car that on-track testing has been curtailed to reduce team costs. The bigger teams have circumvented this by building massively expensive simulators to enable drivers and engineers to refine their driving and engineering in a virtual environment. Valentino Rossi's almost instantaneous competitiveness once he sat in a real Ferrari F1 car has been attributed to the many hours he spent in Ferrari's simulator (sublime talents being a given at that level), while Lewis Hamilton commented this week on how happy he was with the MacLaren he will drive in 2011. He had not actually driven the car, but the simulator which gives him a realistic impression of the car had given him cause to make a positive statement to the press.

So while the number of people involved in Formula One might not number more than 10,000 in total, it includes many of the brightest minds and most ingenious problem-solvers, and hence the future of hybrid technologies and more efficient engines looks decidedly brighter than it did a week ago.

Another interesting tidbit which we have heard is that in the years subsequent to 2013, compound turbocharging will be allowed, further increasing the efficiency of the F1 engines. More on Friday when the FIA voting on the technical specification changes will be finalized, and stay tuned for some other interesting articles on the greening of other motorsport series over the next few days.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon

If F1 really wanted to promote technolgy they would open the rules up to any technology and let the racers come up with truly new ideas. Rule makers just need to keep the cars safe and maybe keep the costs down.

Facebook User

The whole point of F1 is that it\'s supposed to be simply the fastest \'formula\' for a racecar. Dictating what that formula should be removes the technological aspect of the competition.


I don\'t see the point of this? Racing is about speed and power and the R & D that comes from this always comes through to the public at some point? If they do this they are going to ruin this sport just like they have for stock car racing and what they are currently doing to drag racing! Leave the sport alone and let them see what they can extract out of these cars what they will!


Sports are life forms...

Jérôme Dumais

4 cylinder 1600 c.c 10k rpm limit - must be a joke form of Mini racing. Agree with mrhuckfin, whats the point? Modern production cars often exceed these limits, but only because the technology filtered down from the hot house of F1 development. Anybody any idea how many ounces of \"carbon\" this will save over a season compard to F1 executives limo\'s emissions, or the jet fuel used by the circus touring the world?


Half the article is about how expensive this sport is already, and now they want to change the requirements to add significantly to that cost? I think they should minimize the rules and allow the teams decide what technology they want to utilize for the best results within their own cost requirements.


Mrhuckfin has his head so deep in the sand that he is unaware of the global warming issues! Of course this new approach is absolutely right in furthering knowledge for the everyday car; I\'m waiting for the day when the lower costs that will eventually filter down to enable me to apply this sort of technology to the rear wheels of my fwd kit car! If recovered energy can be used to power ancillaries then all the engine\'s power will be available for the driving wheels - and that\'s just the start. jmaclaren


that ought to kill it.

Racing is not green. Get over it.

There is still a lot of benefit to be derived from the R & D they do.

Turning the engines down from 18k to 10k rpm will remove the distinctive sound which I\'m sure is what gets everyone along to the races. Bad idea.

Who says road cars couldn\'t / shouldn\'t run at 18000 RPM?

I see knees jerking at the FIA...


F1 has pretty much been on the downhill since the French (Fédération Internationale de l\'Automobile) decided to drastically reduce the allowed engine capacity back in the 1960\'s. That was specifically aimed at getting the powerful American engines out of it, rather than pushing other manufacturers to improve. The FIA did the same thing with just about every other racing vehicle type during the 60\'s and 70\'s.

Why do the French have such control over almost all international auto sports? Same thing with the IOC, French control of the Olympic Games, and other French organizations in control of other international sporting competition.

It\'s high time some of this gets pried away from France, ditch the French organization names and scatter them around the world.

Facebook User

I kind of really like F1 - but I also hate it when it comes to the city I live in... I kind of want to stick sugar in their fuel and nail spikes in the track... The week or so of \"whining\" engines that can be heard for miles....

But you know I\'d also like to see them given a limit of say 10 liters per 100Km - and to see just how good they can get at making real light, fast and efficient cars, instead of gas guzzlers.

Mr Stiffy

I do agree with a lot of your points. The very definition of racing comes down to using more energy than is necessary, so it will never be truly green. However you must all acknowledge the limitations of fossil fuels, as I believe they have at F1. They have very nearly reached the point of maximum power output and efficiency from the Internal Combustion Engine; the point at which the only way to get more power is to suck more air and spray more fuel, but guess what. That still won\'t win races because real racing isn\'t just about how fast you can go. It\'s also about how far you can go without having to stop, and they realize the main advantage of a hybrid powertrain, energy recovery, is impossible with the ICE alone.

Some of you are vastly underestimating the potential of hybrid tech. That\'s understandable considering the most widely know hybrid is the Prius, but I am excited to see what F1 can do with it.

Chris Pape

Um instead of putting restrictions, why not just figure out how much fuel an average sports car uses in a race and then make a fuel tank that is .75% of that capacity. Then don\'t let them fill up during the race. Perhaps the most efficient design is 1.8L or 1.4L. Then every year you can lower the amount of gas a car could use in the race. It would be a very interesting race if the number 1 car is leading by a lap and putters out of gas 20 feet from the finish.. LOL

Michael Mantion

Rally died with the end of the 800bhp monsters! F1 started dieing with Senna\'s death and the regulations that were imposed back then... and this is the final blow! So what Motorsports can I watch without falling asleep? BTCC, JGTC, JTCC and D1. So if SPONSORS are watching this... SHIFT YOUR MONEY ASAP, and remember that green sports are good for birds, and plants and whales... but none of them buy stuff from you, now... do they?

This ECO-Diseased world if starting to bother me... You can\'t buy decent cars anymore... I\'m glad I brought an old school car, and I\'m not letting go of it. :S

Facebook User

I dont get it. Whats the problem with new rules and challenges? In 2006 when 2.4l V8s were introduced everybody thought that F1 is done. But instead over next 3 years cars became much faster. Again when in 2009 new rules were introduced on bodywork, instead of slow down, the cars started to break laprecords. Everytime new rules were introduced, the cars became faster and I\'m sure doesnt kill F1. So by 2013 or 2015 its likely that the cars will get quicker. But I really hate it when FIA dictates those engineers. I mean let engineers find out how they can tap out more from 1.6l compound turbocharged engines; forget about 4cylinders or 10,000 rpm limits. Leave them to decide which unit they should use. And also hybrids and alternative fuel cold add more excitement once they are fully developed just like the modern engines.

Facebook User

I love this ideea. The future cars must be more eficient with less damage to the environement. If i had money, i would command a Bugatti Galibier with air or HHO, engine at the same power or engine like the W16...something like that :)

Facebook User

When they got rid of the V10 and V12 F1 went downhill. It just doesnt sound beautiful no more. The V8s and V6s and I4s only sound good when turbocharged.... f1 IS NOT ABOUT BEING GREEN BUT ABOUT RACING!!!! And to think it hasnt contributed to being green is an understatement. 7speed trans, paddleshifters, even 8speed trans all come from F1 (due to their high revs).

They need an F1 unlimited series with experimental powerunits (V10, V12, rotaries, and turbines).

I also wonder what a closed F1 racer would look like. Hopefully Adrian Newly gets his way...


It might by a bow out to \'IKEA\' technology : Let it for ALL to assemble a F1 team, !!, from street style model parts, and a dedicated tune shop effort,....

Something like the current Formula Student racers, taken to a serious level,.

Go-karts have long been the leisure time favorites for many F1 top drivers, it\'s more direct, and even, for all, showing who has the tricks, the reactions, and the \'spirit\' to focus on the long, and tiring competitions.

Søren Algreen-ussing
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