Formula 1 – Engines, Ers and unreliability

As the first race in the new 2014 Formula 1 season approaches, Deskarati thought you might want an update on some of the new rules and toys available this year.

First things first, the 2.4-litre naturally aspirated V8s, which have been in use since 2006, have been replaced by 1.6-litre V6 turbos. After several years of a freeze on engine development, engine power will now be a performance differentiator again. And part of the new rules package is a fuel limit. Drivers will now have to complete races on just 100kg – or about 130 litres – of fuel. That’s down from the 150kg or so teams would use last year, when there was no limit. Meanwhile, engines must consume fuel at no more than 100kg per hour. The fuel limit is not as draconian as it at first appears, though, so don’t expect races to become an economy run.

The new engines don’t use as much fuel for a start, while much more power is now available from the ‘hybrid’ technology, known as Ers, which stands for ‘energy recovery system’, is made up of the Kers system that has been around for a while and a second electric motor fitted to the turbo. The Kers system harnesses kinetic energy from the rear axle during braking via an electric motor to be stored in a battery pack reapply under acceleration. Last year, it was allowed to produce 60kw for up to 6.7 seconds a lap. This year, however, it can produce 150kw for 30 seconds.

As for the second electric motor, that will harness energy from the turbo that would otherwise be wasted as heat. The amount of energy that can be generated in this way is unlimited and can be either stored in the battery or used to accelerate. This electric motor also increases the efficiency of the turbo and can be used to ensure it works the instant the driver applies the throttle.

In the past, turbo engines have always had a slight throttle lag – a delay in power while the turbo gets up to speed. This has been removed in these new engines. Drivers pushed a button to access the power stored by the Kers system, but the new Ers will be controlled by the engine management computer, so it means there is less work for the drivers to do.

All sounds good, doesn’t it? But there is a price to pay. Such dramatic changes mean reliability will be a major concern, certainly at the start of the season. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has said he believes failure rates in races could be as high as 50%. Edited from All aboard the ‘power train’

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