Formula win for Deakin
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.