F1 Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS)

Updated , by John Dahlstrom

F1 Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS)

A significant technical innovation introduced in Formula One racing is that of the Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems, or KERS. Formula One's image has always been one of being environmentally unfriendly, which has led to its not remaining relevant to road vehicle technology. This was the driving force behind the KERS introduction into Formula One.

The energy-saving device KERS is fitted on to engines, and this helps to convert a part of the energy wasted during braking into energy that is then useful. In this system, the braking energy that is produced is stored in a reservoir, and this energy is released when the vehicle is accelerated. This technological introduction's main objective was to help in overtaking and significantly improve lap times. It is not the objective of KERS to reduce the engine weight or to cause an improvement in fuel efficiency. Its introduction is to mainly lead to an improvement in racing performance.

The brainchild behind KERS is Max Mosley, FIA president. Formula 1 displays its eco-friendliness and the road relevance of the modern F1 cars through this concrete initiative. This hybrid device has cutting-edge technology that is road-relevant and environmentally friendly and can revolutionize Formula One.

KERS Components #

KERS has three main components which are:

An electric motor, which is located between the engine and fuel tank, is directly connected to the engine's crankshaft for the production of additional power.

Energy is delivered quickly by lithium-ion batteries of high voltage that have stored the energy.

Monitoring is through a KERS control box that oversees the electric motor when it charges and releases energy.

B - Electronic Control Unit

C - Battery Pack

Kinetic Energy Recovery System Working Principle #

The basic principle on which KERS works states that "Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be endlessly converted."

Kinetic energy is produced by a car when it is driven, and this same energy gets converted to heat when the car is braking.

The brakes slow absorb the kinetic energy from the car and turn it into heat.

The KERS system actually stores this energy instead, so it becomes available for the driver to accelerate again. In less than seven seconds, the KERS system is able to give the F1 cars an extra 85 BHP, as per F1 regulations.

This system stores the car's energy during its braking process and then reuses it to give a temporary boost to the engine power. This and the diagram following it show how the system's main components are typically placed at the fuel tank base and illustrate the basic functions of the system, its charging and boost phase. In the charging phase,

During the boost phase, the driver has to press a boost button located on the steering wheel, and this allows the electric motor/alternator to give back the stored energy in a continuous stream to the engine. The energy is equivalent to 80 horsepower, and for every lap, the driver can make use of it for 6.6 seconds. Fuel tank capacity, about 90-100kg in 2008, is reduced to less than 15kg, and this is enough to influence race strategy, particularly in circuits where a one-stop run is possible. Additional radiators are necessary to cool batteries. As opposed to electrical KERS, mechanical KERS uses a flywheel while working on the same principle of storing and reusing energy.

Types of KERS #

There are two basic types of KERS systems:

Electronic KERS #

Toyota, Renault, Ferrari, Toro Russo, and Red Bull all use a common system of electronic KERS that Magneti Marelli, an Italian firm supply.

This type of KERS system faces the lithium-ion battery's challenge of getting heated, which requires additional ducts in the car. Supercapacitors are used by BMW instead of batteries so that the system remains cool.

When the brake is applied in this system, a minor part of the kinetic energy or rotational force is captured by the electric motor located at one end of the engine's crankshaft. The motor's key function is to charge the batteries when brakes are applied and then to release the same energy during acceleration. Kinetic energy gets converted to electrical energy by the electric motor, and this is stored in high voltage batteries. When the accelerator is pressed by the driver, the car is driven by the electric energy that has been stored in the batteries.

Electro-Mechanical KERS #

Ian Foley is the inventor of the electro-mechanical KERS. This system works with a special flywheel housed in a vacuum and is linked to the differential through a CVT transmission. This linkage enables storing of mechanical energy in a huge storage reservoir, with the advantage being that this system is independent of the gearbox. Braking energy is stored in the flywheel, and when needed, the car wheels are coupled to the spinning flywheel. The resulting boost in power is at least equivalent to that from a fully electric KERS system.

KERS Limitations #

One of the most significant introductions to Formula 1 is the KERS, but it has its own limitations when efficiency and performance are concerned. These are the limitations:

  • The existing engine of a car can only be equipped by one KERS.
  • Maximum input and output is 60 KW for a KERS system.
  • The maximum energy released in one lap by the KERS is limited to 400kg.
  • The energy recovery system only works when the car is moving.
  • The driver must completely be in control of the energy released by the KERS.
  • Control of the recovery system must be by the same electronic control unit that also controls the engine, clutch, transmission, and differential.
  • The KERS system is not permitted to use transmission systems of the continuously variable type.
  • The connection of the energy recovery system to the rear-wheel drive train must be at one point.
  • In situations where the KERS is connected between the wheel and the differential, the torque that is applied on each wheel has to be the same.
  • KERS works only in cars that have a single braking system.