Each year, the 24 hour of Le Mans is raced in France. This is the most prestigious sports car race in the world. It is furthermore one of the most famous races ever. The race has been dominated by Audi for more than a decade, obtaining 12 victories in the last 14 years.
Unlike exotic Formula 1 cars, the LMP1 prototypes use technologies which can very often be used in normal road cars. The most famous exemples are the TFSI and TDI Audi engines, as well as the HDi engines from Peugeot. These technologies were developed for the LMP1 cars but they were later on used in the road cars. This happens a lot in this series because the rules are set up in such a way that it is attractive for car manufacturers to try to develop technologies which could be used in normal road cars.
Since a few years, Audi is now busy developing a hybrid car called e-tron. They have already achieved great successes with it and have already built normal cars who used the same technology.
Recently, the rules have been profoundly reviewed which resulted in the involvement of Toyota and Porsch, two of the biggest car brands in the world.
So I think, the rule changes in the WEC with the LMP1 cars are far more successful than those in F1. With the LMP1 cars, they happened much more gradually. This way, the constructors could adapt easier which results in less problems which is better for the reputation of the car brands.
In a few months, a new racing serie will be born. It is called Formula E and teams will compete against each other in fully electric cars. The project is backed by famous persons like Leonardo Di Caprio and a lot of famous former F1 drivers will race with these new cars. One of the drivers will be our own Jerôme D’Ambrosio who was the last Belgian in Formula 1
A big advantage for the promotion for the series is that the races take place in the city centres of some of the most important cities in the world and they will be broadcasted live on a lot of television stations.
Because of battery limitations, races would normally not be that long because the battery capacity would just be to low, but the organisers found interesting ways to solve this problem. They will introduce one pit stop where the battery pack will be changed and one where the driver has to change cars.
I think this is a great initiative, although I have some doubts if it will be popular with the big public. They sure did a great job to make the cars look attractive but the lack of real engine sound might be a problem as we have seen with F1 in Melbourne.
But I will certainly be looking forward to the new season which starts in a symbolical place namely Beijing where a lot has to be done about CO2 emissions.
Some techniques have been discussed so far as to how to possibly lower the drag of a car. One without a lot of adaptions and one that requires a more intellectual approach. However, there is one more adaptation one can make without too many changes that has been the topic of a lot of discussions. Namely removing the side view mirrors and replacing them with side view camera’s.
The principle behind this is fairly easy to understand. The side view mirrors cause a (small but noticable) increase in frontal area and actually has quite a lot of drag. This drag force has a quadratically proportional to the speed, thus 2 highly energy consuming elements at high speeds. On the other hand, rear view camera’s and LCD’s are very cheap nowadays and don’t consume a lot of energy. Having that said, installing and implementing the camera’s is not as simple and should be left for those who have a lot of knowledge on how to do this. For example, the camera should be lag free, shouldn’t be influenced by noise, isn’t allowed to fail (dangerous to drive without being able to see next to you)
A lot of pro’s and cons should be weighed against eachother to see if it can be done safely and if it’s beneficial. Below, you can find an article where a calculation is done to show how the differences.
Back in the first post on this blog, I posted a video regarding misconceptions in aerodynamics. Somewhere around the second half of the video, a device is discussed that could ‘eat away’ the vorticity at the wingtips to prevent vortices from forming. The creation of these vortices is caused by induced drag and is happens when air flows from the low pressure area to the high pressure area over the wingtip, creating a circular motion, causing the air to spiral.
However, in the video itself, the lector is vague around the design of such device. A few weeks ago at the JEC fair in Paris, I actually came across a company that had developed such a device and claimed to have gotten significant results of up to 6% net gain usage of the entire plane. It is interesting to see that, a technology that was deemed useless, suddenly shows up with pretty good results. There are some remarks that have to be made when looking at the results.
For example, the pathlines shown on their website are only the ones closest to the wing, so it’s not certain if the entire vortex has been eliminated or only the small part directly at the wingtip. So it’s hard to draw conclusions from this. Secondly, the technology was shown on many fairs, starting from 2003. More than 10 years later, the technology still hasn’t been applied to modern airplanes. If this technology is really that good, why hasn’t it been used already?
Last week, Volvo announced a new prototype of the S60. This prototype uses an F1 style KERS or Kinetic Energy Recovery System to lower its emissions.
Until now, this was mostly used in race cars or super cars like the porsche 918. But now, it is tested in a normal road car.
This system stores the kinetic energy of the car in a flywheel which can store this energy for around 30 minutes. The system can store around 150Wh which is not enough to drive purely electric but it can be used to lower emissions drastically. Certainly in city traffic where you have to start and stop regularly.
Another advantage compared to a conventional hybrid car is that the KERS system is a lot cheaper and a lot lighter. It weighs around five times less than the batteries of a Volvo hybrid car.
So I think that this system would perform very well, certainly in urban area’s. If you drive longer distances, a regular hybrid system would probably still be better.
More and more car companies are focussing their attention to greener technologies to sustain a better tomorrow. One of such technologies is electric actuators instead of fuel engines. Not only do fuel engines pollute (a lot), their efficiency is remarkably low while compared to electrical motors, who have been noted to have efficiencies of up to 97.5%. However, to be really effective, EV’s should have to happen on a large scale.
This idea led Kia to the development of the Kia Ray EV. The target was to develop a mass producible EV to launch in a highly populated country, being Korea. Despite having pretty good specs (click the link below), the vehicle didn’t really break trough. After the first batch in 2012, not a lot of these cars have been sold. This was because the Ray was sort of the predecessor of the KIA Soul which was planned to be distributed mid 2014 in Korea as well. If we compare the two, one thing immediately catches the eye. The KIA Ray looks like a cube, meaning it’s not aerodynamic … at all. If we compare this to the KIA Soul or the Renault TWIZZY, we can see that these EV’s have spent a lot more attention on this aspect, which is still one of the major losses in a car.
Since the car is about to be released in a few months and it’s goal is to sell 5000 pieces by the end of this year in Korea alone. We’ll have to wait and see if they’ll succeed in their plans.
A week after the first F1 race of the season in Melbourne, Red Bull owner Mateschitz has uttered his concerns about the rule changes in F1. He said that Red Bull might quit F1 if they are not happy with how things are arranged in the future. This would be a small disaster since Red Bull does not only sponsor Red Bull Racing of Sebastian Vettel but also Toro Rosso in Italy.
He has several issues with how F1 is governed right now. First of all, he has problems with the fuel flow limit of 100kg/h which posed problems for Red Bull during the first race of the season resulting in a disqualification of Ricciardo. But the biggest problem is the fact that the more ecological rules of the new season result in several challenges for Formula 1 in general.
The engines are now limited to 15000rpm instead of 19000rpm last year. This results in an engine sound which is quiet and low. Due to this, the spectators and organisers of the GP of Australia were not at all amused. Going to an F1 race did not provide the same thrill as it used to be. Due to the ecological constraints, the cars are now several seconds per lap slower than last year.
This almost results in the fact that other cars such as the GP2 cars are nearly as fast as F1 cars and that with a much lower budget.
According to me, the new rules indeed pose a challenge to F1. When I watched the race in Australia on television, I was also a little bit disappointed by the sound. Maybe, the rule changes should not have been so big. They posed huge challenges to the manufacturers and the development costed a huge amount of money. If the sport would lose the interest of a lot of people, it would be a lot less interesting for other companies to sponsor teams which could endanger the sport.
Although one remark should be made and that is that you should watch out with what you believe in the motorsport world. A lot that is said is just politics and should be watched sceptically.