For­mula win for Deakin

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

THE en­gi­neer­ing boffins at Deakin Uni­ver­sity in Gee­long are up to their lab coats in some ground­break­ing au­to­mo­tive re­search.

They are de­vel­op­ing a low-cost For­mula One-style ki­netic en­ergy stor­age sys­tem (KERS) for the fam­ily sedan.

It’s the type of back­room work that has global im­pli­ca­tions for the car in­dus­try, and we sus­pect many car­mak­ers will be tak­ing great in­ter­est in the out­come of the re­search.

KERS is this year’s hot topic in For­mula One cir­cles as the top teams use it to boost their chances of victory.

A For­mula One driver can use the sys­tem to har­vest and store en­ergy gen­er­ated when a car brakes, grab­bing an ex­tra 60kW for about 6.5 sec­onds to sling­shot the car in short bursts.

But Deakin project leader Clive Fer­gu­son be­lieves it has great po­ten­tial off the track, too, in mak­ing main­stream fam­ily sedans more ef­fi­cient and help­ing to lower emis­sions.

He also reck­ons KERS will im­prove a ve­hi­cle’s han­dling.

‘‘This will be part of our re­search as well,’’ he says.

For­mula One KERS cars can store the en­ergy in bat­tery packs but Fer­gu­son says me­chan­i­cal stor­age by us­ing a fly­wheel has sev­eral po­ten­tial ad­van­tages for road cars.

A fly­wheel stor­age sys­tem can save weight and space, he says.

‘‘They are also friend­lier for the en­vi­ron­ment be­cause they re­move the need for highly toxic lithium-based bat­ter­ies.’’

He also be­lieves a fly­wheel KERS could sig­nif­i­cantly out­per­form the bat­ter­ies in hy­brid ve­hi­cles in ef­fi­ciency, green foot­print, size and weight.

Deakin will con­cen­trate on an­swer­ing th­ese ques­tions and ap­ply­ing the re­sults of their re­search to a mass-pro­duced car.

They plan to in­de­pen­dently iden­tify the tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties in de­vel­op­ing an af­ford­able me­chan­i­cal KERS for front and rear­wheel-drive cars and iden­tify cost-ef­fec­tive so­lu­tions.

One day KERS could be as com­mon as anti-skid brakes or trac­tion con­trol.

Given the role For­mula One has had in de­vel­op­ing sys­tems now com­mon­place in road cars, Deakin’s re­search has merit.

For­mula One has pi­o­neered ac­tive sus­pen­sion sys­tems, trac­tion con­trol sys­tems and anti-skid brakes, all of which are now com­mon in fam­ily cars.

Driven team: Fer­rari uses the KERS sys­tem in For­mula One. Now Deakin is de­vel­op­ing it for fam­ily cars.

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