Flywheel hybrid systems (KERS)

Max Mosley stated at the British Grand Prix 2006 that the racer wanted F1 cars that had brake systems that regenerative. He had to have believed his words were directed to the right people to achieve his dream. He could not have imagined the speed at which his ideas became a reality. It was fortunate that Jon Hilton was in the crowd, watching his remarks. He is now the CEO of the same high-tech business that Mosley was hoping to develop Formula 1’s technology. Hilton’s company was an innovator in this area in the world of F1 and is currently looking for applications for the technology in road vehicles. The company has been rewarded with lots of interest. Mosley’s hopes of achieving his dream are on the verge of becoming reality as the technology that was designed to support F1 becoming integrated into the automobiles we drive. This all happened in just 18 months, which is less than 18 months since Silverstone’s announcement.

Hilton was an Renault F1 engineer in Enstone, UK, and was scheduled to attend take part in the GP as an incentive. They were working towards an engine freezing during F1 at the time that Hilton suggested that they look at energy recovery. He recalls asking Renault whether they were considering the subject and was informed “no”. “So I requested if he would be able to however, he said he would not invest any money.”

Doug Cross, his design manager, was with him seeking out every solution. He laughs and describes the idea of knotted rubber bands running from the front towards the tail. It’s a flims idea, however, we did have a look at it. It took us around 15 minutes to realize that it was impossible to achieve the desired result, however we did take a look.

Renault was forced to cut its expenses by that time and Hilton and Cross were both dismissed. Although they were deeply involved in the idea of energy recovery, and aware that 2009 was going to be an important year for F1 teams the technology had to be developed fully and raced.

Hilton remembers sitting in a pub and talked about how difficult it would be. “We determined the take to get to the point at which a running demonstration unit could be installed on an engine test rig. We believed it would take us too long to make it sellable. However, we discussed whether we could afford the financing and we decided to do it. This is how¬† . Both were employees of Renault beginning on January 1st and was moved into the Silverstone Technology Centre on 2 January.

They came up with the flywheel concept and began to sketch out the fundamental details.

The system is comprised of an engine and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that is linked to the drivetrain. The CVT stores energy when you shift it to a gear ratio that will accelerate the flywheel. However, in the opposite direction it releases energy when it is moved toward a ratio that will slow it down. If the speed exceeds the limits of the system the clutch will break off the drive.

It’s not a new idea, and is extensively employed in other applications. Flybrid’s innovative solutions address the requirement for adequate power storage capacity in a compact and light device that is suitable for use in F1. Flybrid has increased the speed of their flywheel up to 64,500 rpm. This results in an efficient, lighter flywheel, but also implies that it has to be enclosed in a sturdy structure in the case of failure. This causes windage losses which drain power and produce massive quantities of heat. Flybrid came up with a solution using a vacuum. This resolves friction and heat problems, but it brings up the issue of power transfer with no air leakage. While electrical solutions are feasible however the energy loss from the transfer of power would be excessive. The team decided to design an entirely hermetic shaft seal.

When the project was first described and analyzed, it was discovered that the majority of the issues could be solved with off-the-shelf solutions. However, there were four areas where the company had to come up with their own solutions. This included a flywheel model that wouldn’t be damaged when speed is high, a containment system that protects the entire system in the case of a crash or failure and a vacuum seal and an option for bearings.

Flybrid’s unique approach to these problems was distinctive. The company came up with three solutions to each issue and then arranged for them to be produced in parallel. Hilton states, “We did it because we could make it quicker.” We simply didn’t have time to come up with the solution we wanted to use. If the solution isn’t working, we draw and redesign the design. After that, we wait another eight weeks before the components are built. He added that it wasn’t an extravagant expense and they did not have the luxury of three or four months. It’s expensive to create hardware , but it could also cost a lot if it takes too long. Also, it consumes office space, electricity, and other costs. I believe that it’s not more costly to conduct business in the same manner as we used to.

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