Energy Recovery Systems - Motorsport

KERS boosting the F1

Between 2009 and 2011, Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS), were used by Formula 1 teams to recover kinetic energy for future use. More specifically the energy from when a car brakes. KERS was the first step towards the electrification of power units in F1. Making them one of the most efficient internal combustion engines ever made. 

Without this type of recovery system, this energy would usually be lost in the form of heat. KERS instead converts this kinetic energy into electrical energy. Which we can store in a battery, flywheel, or supercapacitor. Which the driver can deploy later on in the lap (Energy Education, 2018).

With the use of this system, F1 drivers were able to press the KERS button on the steering wheel to gain a boost of power. By pressing the button, the driver activates the discharge of power from the battery. Which then goes to the motion of the drive shaft. This gives a boost of up to 80 bhp – a powerful acceleration for up to 7 seconds per lap (BBC Sport, 2012). 

The boost was often used by drivers to reach their top speed faster. Get out of slow corners, and on straights to exceed their usual speeds. The 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix saw Lewis Hamilton win the F1 with a hybrid engine – a first in F1.

The reason F! did not use KERS past 2011 was due to drivers having to take one hand off the wheel to operate it. This consequently raised concerns over safety after a number of minor incidents. However, it has since seen redevelopment with the use of ERS in its place.

ERS the next stage of KERS

ERS, or Energy Recovery Systems, takes KERS to the next level. It is a more advanced and powerful system that comprises two motor generators. Complemented by an Energy Store (ES) which recovers energy and delivers it in the form of energy, and Control Electronics (CE) (Daimler, 2019).

In contrast to KERS, the deployment of ERS occurs by ‘engine maps’. This is essentially pre-set modes that dictate how to use the engine, and exactly where to use ERS, rather than the driver. ERS can provide up to 120kw (approx. 160bhp) of power for approximately 33 seconds per lap.

The motor generators comprise of:

  • Motor Generator Unit-Kinetic (MGU-K): recovers kinetic energy from the car when braking
  • Motor Generator Unit-Heat (MGU-H): uses heat from the car’s waste exhaust gases to drive a generator – this sits between the compressor and turbine of the turbocharger (Autoevolution, 2018).

Exhaust gases from the engine power the turbocharger. However the MGU-H recovers the excess energy in the exhaust stream. Which is a bi-product from the increase in power of the compressor. We can therefore use this electrical energy to keep the compressor running while braking, with the conversion of rotational energy into electrical energy. We can then store this as chemical energy (Daimler, 2019).

The entire hybrid system is controlled by the Control Electronics (CE), and it will complete around 43 trillion calculations in order to analyse the speed at which the electric motors should run at and how much power should be deployed. In addition, it also calculates how the Energy Store can be optimised to ensure peak performance.

Magnetic Rotors a key component

Magnetic Rotor - A key element in ERS

Magnetic rotors are integral to high performance, highly efficient electric machines and components used in motorsport as well as the aerospace and automotive industries. They are able to perform in extreme conditions, an excess of 50,000 RPM, making them ideal for this application, and critical to boosting performance in these high powered machines.

Why dynamically balance magnetic rotors?

As magnetic rotors often operate at very high speeds and require very tight tolerances, even the smallest amount of unbalance due to centrifugal forces during rotation will cause the assembly to vibrate. If left undetected, and as the rotational speed increases, so will the vibration, resulting in damage and premature component failure.

Dynamically balancing the magnetic rotor assembly will remove or minimise imbalance, allowing the rotor to run without vibration, in turn, extending its lifespan, and allowing it to operate to its maximum performance potential.

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