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Formula 1 and KERS

John Parry

John Parry

Posted Jul 27, 2009

Ahead of the qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Saturday I heard Eddie Jordan, former owner of Jordan Grand Prix, comment to David Coulthard that he was pleased that KERS (Kinetic Energy Recover Systems) would not be in F1 for the 2010 season.

Love it or hate it from a racing perspective, I think given the state of the current technology that’s probably a good thing. I say that with some regret, as there is a far wider issue at stake here – the development of automotive technology that will ultimately make its way into road cars.

A couple of years ago I was privileged to hear Pietro Perlo, Director, Centro Ricerche Fiat give an excellent talk titled “The international dimension: Systems Innovation across Europe” at the 3D-Mintegration conference. The presentation made a very compelling case for electric cars being the future, and outlined some of the technological developments needed to deliver on that vision. Most were either already available or in development, but one key area in need of significant improvement was KERS.

KERS uses kinetic energy from braking to charge a battery, which is then used to provide some of the power used to accelerate. The problem is the battery. Batteries work best when charged slowly over a long period of time. Even so, only some 40% of the energy is recoverable. What’s required are supercapacitors capable of very rapid charging and discharging with higher energy recovery.

Increasing the energy density (MJ/kg) of supercapacitors is essential. Despite the obvious competitive incentive of a supercapacitor-based KERS system to use the massive energy loss during breaking to enhance acceleration, hindered by financial restrictions Formula 1 may no longer provide a suitable mechanism for developing such technologies.

Perhaps some time in the near future when supercapacitor technology is more advanced it will be re-introduced, helping bring fully competitive electric vehicles to market.

Electric Vehicle, F1, Electric Car, Supercapacitor, Formula 1, KERS

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About John Parry

John ParryI started my career in the consultancy group at CHAM Ltd., using PHOENICS for a variety of CFD applications. From the consultancy group I moved into support, helping customers debug models, and figuring out how to model new applications. That broadened into delivering training courses and creating training material. I was invited to join Flomerics when it started in 1989 to head up Customer Services, and I jumped at the chance to work for a startup. After a few years supporting customers using FloTHERM I moved across into research, developing thermofluid models of common electronic parts, like fans and IC packages, later managing the DELPHI and SEED projects. More recently I worked with Flomerics’ Finance Director on the acquisition of MicReD, helping to integrate MicReD’s business into Flomerics Group which was great fun. Since Flomerics acquired Nika, I’ve been responsible for promoting the FloEFD suite in education, and moved into marketing. I now work as part of the Mechanical Analysis Division’s Corporate Marketing group, responsible for ElectronicsCooling Magazine and the division’s Higher Education Program. Expertise: I’m a chemical engineer by training and did a PhD in reactor design before getting involved with CFD more than 25 years ago. Visit John Parry’s Blog

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Comments 2

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Such a shame that F1 wont be driving this development, especially after the articles in Professional Engineering earlier in the year on how much F1 has driven technology elsewhere - and after Lewis Hamilton demonstrated on Sunday just what a really good KERS systems can achieve.

12:28 PM Jul 27, 2009

Indeed it is. According to Wikipedia ( the teams seem to have agreed that the power advantage is not worth the weight. Supercapacitor technology seems to offer real hope, but the challenge is to get the power density up towards the MW/kg range.

John Parry
12:47 PM Jul 27, 2009

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