and the more recent 3-liter V10 era. Many
F1 fans can still recall the high-boost
qualifying engines of the turbo era that
made more than 1,000hp. But those
engines lasted a single lap, with race
versions pushing out far less for reasons of
longevity. Moreover, the power delivery was
a peaky, all-or-nothing punch and turbo-lag
meant that it was only produced at high
rpm and boost pressures. In contrast,
current F1 power units have a power curve
bulging with torque, predictable delivery,
no turbo lag, and last 2,500-3,000 miles.
How is this achieved? There are two key
technologies in the modern power units
that help produce such impressive figures:
those energy recovery systems and the
combustion technology now being used.
F1 cars have incorporated hybrid
technology, in the form of ERS, since 2009.
Back then, by harvesting and storing kinetic
energy under braking, the Kinetic Energy
materials to achieve the greatest possible
efficiency in these systems: lithium-ion
batteries, rare earth magnets in the
motors, and silicon carbide in the electrical
switching, for example. Even the weight of
the electrical coolant has been reduced.
This all produces a round trip efficiency, the
ratio of energy recovered to that reapplied
at the wheels, in the high 90 percent range.
But for all the merits of F1’s energy
recovery systems, the bulk of the power
produced by the current power units is
still as a result of burning fossil fuels.
The regulations limit the gasoline-fueled
engine to just 1.6-liter capacity (that’s less
than100cu.in), with just one turbo, a rev
limit of 12,000rpm and starvation levels
of fuel flow – limited to 100kg/hr, which is
about half what a 1,000hp V10 engine
used. However, these tiny jewels still produce
over 750hp – a staggering 470hp per liter.
Making that power is a huge challenge
The power unit is deemed to consist
of six separate elements, of which
four of each are available to each
driver per season before they are
penalized. The elements are the four
ERS components, plus the engine and
the turbocharger. Should a driver use
more than four of any one component,
grid penalties ranging from 10 to five
places are awarded. Currently,
penalties earned at a specific race
don’t carry over, resulting in some
teams taking tactical penalties when
additional elements are needed.
Recovery System (KERS) could provide a
90hp power boost for six seconds. The
new-for-2014 power unit rules upped this
significantly, with the Motor Generator
Unit-Kinetic (MGU-K, as KERS is now called)
nearly doubling maximum power to 160hp.
But it didn’t stop there: a second system,
the Motor Generator Unit-Heat (MGU-H)
was introduced, taking waste energy from
overboost in the turbo to generate even
more energy that could be stored and
reused in conjunction with the MGU-K. It’s
this combination that allows the maximum
160hp to be available for a far longer time
– up from six to 33 seconds, and more
than covering the time a driver uses full
throttle on a lap of most F1 tracks. That’s
not a bad deal: the additional power output
of a mid-range sedan whenever it’s needed,
created from nothing but the car slowing
down and less than 100lbs in added weight.
F1’s manufacturers are using high tech
Four power unit
represented on the
current F1 grid –
Renault and Honda.
Each one is pushing
the limits on design,
materials and process
to achieve staggering
levels of efficiency
with the turbo-hybrids.