The UK is leading the electric and hybrid car revolution thanks to F1

From race to road

F1 has already given the auto industry carbon fibre bodywork, semi-automatic gearboxes and traction control, but it’s only now that the true potential of the UK’s motorsport heritage is being unlocked. A mixture of government legislation and recent rule changes mean it’s spearheading tech that will filter down to our road cars.

Formula One now uses Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) and turbochargers to achieve performance similar to previous engines while using one-third less fuel and cylinders. Elsewhere, the all-electric Formula E series – in which cars use batteries designed by Williams Advanced Engineering – is revolutionising how electric cars are perceived.

In my mind, Williams Advanced Engineering is probably one of the best examples of using [motorsport technology] to broaden out into other industries,” says Ian Cluett, head of programmes and commercial at the company.[gallery:1]

ERS technology developed by the McLaren and Williams F1 teams is already being used in road cars such as McLaren’s P1 and Jaguar’s CX75. “We reapplied that [technology] across the Jaguar CX75, and then into Formula E, and we’re working with a number of OEMS to effectively push up the power density and energy density of their batteries by using F1 cooling processes and cooling in their batteries,” he adds.

The F1-powered bus

Elsewhere, F1 hybrid technology developed by Williams for racing will be used in London’s public transport. “Williams developed two variants [of KERS in] the first instance, a battery-based system and a flywheel-based system,” says Francis.

“We ultimately went down a battery solution, but [we] realised that the flywheel was a great piece of kit and had applicability outside of the sport. So, basically, we ran with that and set up a company called Williams Hybrid Power.”

In 2014, Williams Hybrid Power was sold to FTSE 100 engineering company GKN, and the technology originally designed for F1 will soon be installed on more than 50 London buses.

GKN’s Gyrodrive system uses a high-speed carbon-fibre flywheel to store the energy generated by a bus as it stops at lights or in traffic. The flywheel then uses the excess kinetic energy to power an electric motor, which in turn works with the engine to get the bus moving again. Using this technology, GKN is saving around 20% in fuel.

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