K-ERS, ERS-H and RPMs: The technology behind the new 2014 Formula 1 cars
YOU may think that developing a fast Formula 1 car is done by simply chucking in a big, high-powered engine, but that’s all changed in 2014.
Formula 1 is one of the most technical sports in the world, with car manufacturers using the sport not only to win but also as a research ground for technology that will eventually make it into our road cars. Transmission, braking and engine technology are all things that have first been developed in Formula 1.
2014 brings a whole slate of new challenges, with the sport’s biggest ever change of regulations and technology — technology we will eventually see in our road cars.
We call them engines, but in Formula 1 they’re referred to as power units. Why? Because there is no longer just one petrol engine powering these beasts, they’re hybrid units that on top of their 1.6-litre V6 turbo engine use electricity recovered from braking and exhaust to help power them, offering an extra 120kW of power through the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (K-ERS) which can power the car for 33 seconds per lap, significantly up from the six seconds of 2013.
2014 also sees the introduction of a new Energy Recovery System, or ERS-H (H for heat). This system helps generate electricity back into the car’s battery using leftover exhaust fumes and plays a big part in keeping that 33-second boost of electricity going.
Remi Taffin, Renault Sport F1 head of track operations, told news.com.au that these new technologies in the engines all rely on each other so much that even if one minor part fails it could end the race for that car.
The engine isn’t the only part of the car using new electrical components. The braking system is now using a new system called ‘brake-by-wire’. The system works out how much brake pressure the driver is applying when he presses the pedal and electronically applies it to the rear brakes, allowing for the kinetic energy to be recovered into the K-ERS system and power the car.
Even though these power units put out a combined power of 560kW, they’re one of the most fuel-efficient engine setups in the world due to the very strict fuel restrictions in Formula 1.
Other changes in this year’s cars include big aerodynamic changes which make the cars more prone to sliding out, the engines will now only rev up to 15,000RPM instead of 18,000RPM and the Pirelli tyres have been made harder to avoid the problems of last year’s season.