Bright sparks

Motorsport experts have awarded three British companies the award for ‘Engine Innovation of the Year’ for a mechanical kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) they are developing for Formula 1.

Northamptonshire-based Flybrid, Lancashire-based Torotrak and Berkshire-based Xtrac were presented with the award at the Professional MotorSport World Expo awards ceremony in Cologne. The winning fast-acting flywheel system recovers and stores the kinetic energy of a vehicle, which is said to offer up to twice the efficiency of existing hybrid electric vehicles, which store energy in batteries.

The flywheel kinetic energy recovery system employs a small ancillary transmission manufactured by Xtrac, which incorporates Torotrak’s full toroidal traction drive technology. Torotrak’s technology provides a continuously variable connection (CVT variator) between the flywheel and the vehicle driveline, and is being developed for motorsport applications by Xtrac. The energy is received from the driveline through the variator as the vehicle decelerates and is then released back into the driveline through the variator as the vehicle accelerates.

According to the companies, compared to the alternative of battery systems, a mechanical KERS system provides a more compact, lighter and environmentally-friendly solution to the recovery of energy.

An unnamed racing team has already signed up to use the KERS system in the 2009 season.

John Hilton, managing partner of Flybrid Systems, said: ‘With the design, test and development of a system for F1 now well underway, our challenge for next year is to demonstrate the viability of the system for mainstream automotive applications.’