Formula One: 'Braking' New Ground
By Chris Ellis
Besides being EV World's European racing correspondent, Mr. Ellis is the CEO of HyKinesys Inc., developers of the PowerBeam, a kinetic energy storage device.
Last Thursday, without fanfare or press release, the FIA published the technical regulations for the 2009 season of Formula One, containing the new rules allowing Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems for the first time. And the rules are not those originally proposed.
According to the FIA, a kinetic energy recovery system is 'a system that is designed to recover kinetic energy from the car during braking, store that energy and make it available to propel the car'. So regenerative braking using surge power units is about to become legal in Formula One, after decades of lobbying and development, since well before the Prius was even a glint in Toyota's eye. The FIA has, at last, made several old men moderately happy!
In previous EVWorld articles ('Balanced Power' and ''Hybrids Overtake') on Formula One I highlighted the problems likely to result from the FIA's original proposal to limit the weight of the 'energy recovery device' to 20kg (44lb). The good news is that there are now no limits, maximum or minimum, on the weight of the surge power unit.
Unfortunately, the FIA keeps referring to it as 'the KERS'. To spare the blushes of the many refined ladies who read my articles, I shall refrain from calling it 'the KERS' and stick with 'surge power unit' or the full label of 'kinetic energy recovery system'. Of course, the drivers, engineers and mechanics of motor sport worldwide can now be relied on to exploit this little faux pas of the (Paris-based) FIA to the limit, and beyond....
Presumably, the main reason the FIA proposed a 20kg limit was to keep a lid on performance, at least for the first season. This has now been achieved by the more sensible expedient of limiting what the FIA are trying to limit, namely power, rather than trying to accomplish it by limiting something else. This decision also avoids arguments over what is or is not part of the kinetic energy recovery system when it comes to 'weighing in'. The limit is set at sixty kilowatts, roughly 80 bhp, which may seem rather low in the context of engines developing around 800bhp, but is a little more than the 60bhp originally contemplated. "10% on top of what we've already got" probably sounded a good suggestion to most of the committee, and met the FIA's perceived need to be seen to be prudent. So far, so good, provided the limit gets raised in June 2008, when the regulations for 2010 will be published.
But then it all starts to unravel. The key new clause in the 2009 regulations is as follows:
5.2.3 The maximum power, in or out, of any KERS must not exceed 60kW.
Energy released from the KERS may not exceed 400kJ in any one lap.
Measurements will be taken at the connection to the rear wheel drive train.
Let's examine these sentences one by one, recalling what was originally proposed.
While it may be prudent for the duration of the first season to limit additional accelerative power to
60kW (80 bhp), it is hard to see any justification for restricting regenerative braking power, unless to 'protect' weak technical solutions from true competition. This also seems to go against the whole new thrust of energy efficiency and relevance to road vehicles. Imagine reading in the manual of your new Prius III that if you used more than 200kJ per minute of regenerative braking, the engine would be on its own! Ridiculous.
Combined with the 400kJ limit per lap, these power restrictions will result in one limp overtaking attempt per lap, at best. So forget more spectacular racing and forget cut and thrust. Drivers will just conserve their precious extra energy for the most obvious place to use it on each lap. The overtaker and the overtakee will have no relative advantage, so everything will remain much the same. After all that technical effort, how boring and wasteful of talent is that?
The current minimum racing weight is 600kg, including the driver. This is due to drop to 550kg in 2008. Now the decision has been taken to raise the minimum weight again to 605kg in 2009, a massive jump of 55kg (121 lb). One might be tempted to assume a team or teams have brought pressure to bear on the FIA because their preferred kinetic energy recovery system needs that much additional mass to be able to handle 60kW in and out, even if only 400kJ per lap. Of course, the net effect during 2009 is to fail to reward those with systems offering high specific energy and/or high specific power. However, I suspect the main reason the FIA has increased the maximum weight so much is because there will be even more new kit in 2010 with the anticipated arrival of the exhaust energy recovery systems (EERS? first 'the curse', then 'ears' - no it's not some new aerodynamic device designed to slow the cars down...). So the 'lean and effective' types of surge power units will really help on the weight side once we get into 2010.
All this means that the effectiveness of superior technical solutions will be masked almost completely during 2009, because the weight savings of a system that can achieve the performance targets with only 30kg rather than the full 55kg 'allowance' are cancelled out by the need to fit some 25kg of ballast to bring the car up to required minimum weight. And it gets worse.
Suppose there is a form of kinetic energy recovery system which is considerably less efficient at gathering energy and using it again, particularly at high peak power and energy flow levels. Most battery-based systems have these characteristics. However, because there is no limit on the amount of energy per lap being fed INTO the system (compared with the limit FROM the system of 400kJ), then this inefficiency really doesn't matter so much if there are many more seconds of regenerative braking available per lap (which there are on most circuits) than the maximum of less than seven seconds of acceleration permitted per lap. For example, in an electric system the generator might be able to run for more than 15 seconds on some tracks, producing some 800kJ. By the time it has passed through the controller (twice), in and out of the battery or capacitor and through the motor, it MUST have shrunk to less than 400kJ. So a full regenerative braking cycle with only 50% efficiency is OK, and anything better is penalised.
Why penalized, rather than just not rewarded? Surely the surge power unit should be smart enough to back off on regenerative braking if the energy storage system is getting too full? Of course it can, but this then upsets the balance of braking, front to rear. If you can always rely on the surge power unit always assisting the rear disc brakes with the same braking power, you can rely on the driver to occasionally change the balance manually, depending on conditions, the amount of fuel, the state of the tires, etc. However, if for whatever reason, regenerative braking has to be intermittent or variable in power, somebody or something has to control the brake balance, very fast. Remember these are race cars, driven on the limit all the time, with most of their weight at the rear. Clearly, regenerative braking should be applied to all four wheels if possible. Failing that, the front wheels only. Only if absolutely necessary should it be applied to the rear wheels alone on a road car, unless you have a very sophisticated electronic system controlling all forms of braking, which is of course forbidden in Formula One. I recently listened to an excellent presentation by Francis Assidian of Jaguar covering his (and Dr Matthew Hancock's) paper 'Impact of regenerative braking on vehicle stability', which is about to be published shortly. I suggest all F1 drivers get a copy; at least you'll know what you're up against.
Some teams might even decide to ensure they never have to shut off regenerative braking by fitting a weak and/or inefficient system! Bear in mind that a regenerative braking system that is smart enough to balance itself is likely to be disallowed in F1 because it would be at least half way towards anti-locking brakes, which are currently anathema in racing. To summarise, the FIA has chosen to restrict regenerative braking to the wrong axle, forbidden the appropriate remedies and provoked matters by requiring regenerative braking to operate in a binary fashion, unless they are suggesting separate and variable manual control!
So not only does this clause, in conjunction with the overall weight gain, 'protect' solutions with poor specific power and/or energy, it 'protects' the inefficient as well, and adds additional risks for the drivers. Fortunately, there is a very simple remedy, see below.
The FIA had indicated they would be 'quite happy' to see kinetic energy recovery systems driving
and being driven by the front wheels, because they understand some of the arguments above and they know it is inevitable, eventually. Now front wheel regeneration has been specifically forbidden. 25kg would have been about right for a small front differential and a couple of driveshafts. But no, presumably some vested interest objected.
However, it ain't over yet. Listen carefully to the audio (the text is only a summary) of Max Mosley's recent and masterful speech to the Motor Sport Business Forum . This is a speech from the heart; Max really means what he says. And he's saying the right things. He's apparently about to take delivery of his third hybrid, so he's basically one of us. Max is promising and, I believe, will ensure that the full technical resources of motor sport will be refocused, to help deliver efficient and cost effective solutions relevant to road vehicles. However, one danger is that the wrong emphasis is already being placed on some of the new solutions because they will be at their most effective in racing cars, but will offer little benefit on the road.
Next year, hundreds of thousands of new cars, buses and trucks will be fitted with surge power units, yet only a few trucks will have turbocompounding installed and almost no road vehicles will have thermal energy recovery systems. EERS have been around for decades, and have completely failed, so far, to make it into the car market, basically because they don't save enough fuel to cover their cost.
However, exhaust energy recovery makes real sense in a race car, because the fuel consumption per minute is way beyond that of any other ground vehicle. For example, four miles per gallon at an average speed of 120 mph is four times the fuel flow rate of a big truck doing eight miles per gallon at 60 mph. The truck engine would melt within minutes if it had to handle the race car's energy flow. A luxury car doing 20 mpg and averaging 90 mph on an autobahn is using fuel at only 15% of the rate the race car consumes it. And these road examples are extreme. Think of a Prius averaging 60 at 60 (I know, everyone claims to do better than that, but I'm just making sure the math is easy!). That's a gallon an hour. Meanwhile, a 2006 Formula One car covers a hundred and twenty miles in an hour, and uses thirty gallons. So the exhaust energy available from the racer is some thirty times higher, which means the average power is roughly thirty times greater. Even if the Prius is running absolutely flat out on an autobahn, its puny engine is only producing roughly 10% of the power of the Formula One engine.
I'm not suggesting EERS shouldn't be pursued, because technology that can recover 100 bhp from the exhaust energy of a Formula One car should deliver say 20hp in a Mercedes to give a few more mph on the autobahn, or raise the highway fuel consumption of a Tahoe by as much as 2 mpg if it's doing 80 across Texas, but it is not going make a big dent in the total fuel consumption of any class of road vehicle other than big, long-haul trucks. What most Tahoe owners will really want is a hybrid version with a surge power unit peaking at 150hp and with about 400Wh of available energy. This would allow GM to put in a 200 hp BioPower engine (i.e. flexible fuel done right) which will deliver real savings on longer trips, as well as sensational mpg in the city. If you then added EERS, you might see an extra 1.5 mpg on the highway.
A surge power unit with about 60kW and some 300Wh (1080kJ) of available energy was identified years ago by the Department of Energy as the key foundation technology for hybrid cars, with proportionately large and more powerful units for buses and trucks. More recently, it has been realized that fuel cell cars, etc, need the same level of kinetic energy recovery. Unless there is a proven leap in battery technology, 'pure' electric vehicles will benefit from surge power as well. The combination of a turbocharged, flexible fuel, direct injection, downsized engine, a surge power unit and the option of one or more 20-mile plug-in batteries is currently at the heart of most realistic thinking about cars for most world markets, for a long time to come. The good news is that the FIA has already set in motion the processes that will help introduce such engines into racing in 2011, with the full support of the manufacturers. The FIA and Formula One are excused battery classes, for obvious reasons.
The expectation of the FIA is that, eventually, almost all road vehicles will be fitted with some form of kinetic energy recovery system. This view is shared by the Chairmen of Toyota and Ford, at a minimum. Surge power units will be the foundation technology for most classes of ground vehicle, whether using internal combustion engines or not. EERS can only be really effective with internal combustion engines, and they are likely to have a useful impact on less than 15% of fuel usage in less than 4% of all road vehicles with IC engines. The key point is obvious; it would be silly to force teams to put most of their technical resources into areas of limited utility in road vehicles because the rules governing EERS (probably out in June 2008) are too soft while the rules on the much more important kinetic energy recovery systems are too restrictive and allow inefficient and sub-optimal implementations to survive.
So what needs to happen now? By the time you read this, the FIA will have a copy. The regulations came out on 22 December. Normally, the FIA can move mountains inside a week. However, some of the key players F1 are currently sliding down mountains or whatever, so it is unlikely that anything can be done before the nominal deadline of 31 December. But my simple understanding is that the FIA, with the support of the World Motor Sport Council, can correct and modify just about anything, especially if the manufacturers agree, and even more so if there is a safety-related problem, which there is.
The first step is to have a thorough review of the text of the 2009 regulations, perhaps by the proposed F1 Major Manufacturers' Advisory Commission ( ). There are numerous anomalies and errors in the text, several caused by lumping the new clauses on kinetic energy recovery together in the same section (Section 5) as the clauses on engines. Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems should have their own new section. Specifically, the key clause governing kinetic energy recovery systems should be changed to read:-
5.2.3 The maximum power of any KERS must not exceed 60kW. Measurements will be taken at the connection to the rear wheel drive train.
The Commission will be surprised how many problems disappear with a few strokes of a red pen. They may wish to go further, and strike out 'rear wheel' as well, indicating they also are 'quite happy' with the surge power unit being connected to either or both axles. Now is the ideal and safest time to take this key and inevitable step, before surge power units are allowed to be more powerful. Toujour l'audace mes braves!
There are a number of other issues which will need sorting out and agreeing. Fortunately, Tony Purnell has just joined the FIA, as a Technical Consultant, see: www.fia.com/resources/documents/791191063__18_12_2006_Tony_Purnell.pdf The press release states 'Purnell’s main role will be to assist the FIA in developing Formula One technologies that will be road-relevant and which will help to improve the racing on the track'. He is in the fortunate position of not having created the mess he will be expected to clear up, and he certainly has the knowledge, experience and guts to make sure it's done right, second time round.
Finally, here's another safety-related issue. Please read the following clause at least twice, and then replace 'rearward' with 'forward'.
13.4 Position of the driver’s feet:
13.4.1 The survival cell must extend from behind the fuel tank in a rearward direction to a point at least 300mm in front of the driver's feet, with his feet resting on the pedals and the pedals in the inoperative position.
If you don't know, the fuel tank in a Formula One car is behind the driver. Of course, replace 'rearward' with 'forward', and the clause now makes sense. Amazingly, this error is in all the F1 technical regulations on the FIA site, from 2005 onwards. I'm sure it's been spotted before, but apparently no one has bothered to correct it!
How did all these mistakes get made? We are just beginning to understand The Second Law of Collective Stupidity, which basically states that, in any group or committee, intelligence tends to dissipate spontaneously. In other words, you can take almost any group of people, and the apparent intelligence of the group judged by its output alone will usually be significantly lower than the average intelligence of the members measured individually. The governments of most countries are obvious examples, although there are some surprising exceptions.
The key ratio is the Organizational Performance Ratio or OPR, which is the Collective IQ divided by the Average of Individual IQs. Most organisations are lucky to get above 0.8. There are glorious exceptions, such as the British Army, which rates at about 1.5, relative to an ant colony on 3.5. Clearly it is also important to take into account the absolute values, but any OPR above 1.2 shows management is on top of things, and should be able to attract better staff.
Engineers (and some scientists) will have noticed the parallel with The Second Law of Thermodynamics. They can draw on their experience in directing and controlling energy to suggest certain parallel solutions, which I will leave for others to enjoy working out for themselves. Whether there are any lessons here for the FIA might be something for Tony Purnell to consider.
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