A groundbreaking mechanical kinetic energy recovery system currently under development for Formula One has been voted 'Engine Innovation of the Year' by a distinguished panel of motorsport experts.

The three British companies behind the system - Flybrid, Torotrak and Xtrac - were recognised for their efforts at the Professional MotorSport World Expo Awards held this week in Cologne, and their award was well received by the 1000 international motorsport professionals in attendance.

With one eye on the significance of new rules in motorsport - and the desire to go 'green' both on track and the road - a lot of new technology highly relevant to the development of future road cars is springing up in the motorsport sector, but the fast-acting flywheel KERS system under development at Flybrid, Torotrak and Xtrac, which offers up to twice the efficiency of current generation hybrid electric vehicles in the storage of recovered vehicle kinetic energy, was adjudged to be the most significant.

"Flybrid, Torotrak and Xtrac are on course to succeed where others have failed by delivering an efficient yet safe flywheel energy recovery system for applications on the racetrack and beyond," commented Graham Heeps, editor of Professional Motorsport World and one of the award judges.

The flywheel kinetic energy recovery system employs a small and sophisticated ancillary transmission manufactured by Xtrac incorporating full toroidal traction drive technology licensed from Torotrak. Torotrak's patented technology is a vital element in a mechanical system as it provides a continuously variable connection - a CVT 'variator' - between the flywheel and the vehicle driveline and is being developed for motorsport applications by Xtrac. Xtrac can sub-license the Torotrak 'variator' technology to Flybrid and other motorsport teams who may wish to design and develop their own mechanical system.

With a major racing team already signed up to use the mechanical KERS system for the F1 application in the 2009 season, the combination of the variator and advanced lightweight flywheel will most likely form part of the driveline assembly. The energy is received from the driveline through the variator as the vehicle decelerates and is subsequently released back into the driveline, again through the variator, as the vehicle accelerates.

"Having had this interesting technology explained at the Global Motorsports Congress, I'm convinced that this system will appear in more motorsport events and road car series production," judge and editor-in-chief of Auto Technology Roland Schedel commented, "I congratulate these three companies on their success."

Jon Hilton, managing partner of Flybrid Systems, and Chris Brockbank, business development manager of Torotrak, stepped forward to receive the award on behalf of all three companies.

"We're delighted to receive this award in recognition of our efforts this year, whereby we've already achieved a huge amount simply by turning an idea into reality," Hilton 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."

The role played by Flybrid, Torotrak and Xtrac in designing a KERS solution for F1 could be highly instrumental in developing the pioneering vehicle technology for more fuel efficient road cars, especially important at a time of spiralling fuel prices and tighter emission regulations, without resorting to the expense and complexity of battery systems. Compared with hybrid electric vehicles, which use batteries for energy storage, a mechanical KERS system utilises flywheel technology as a highly efficient alternative to recover and store a moving vehicle's kinetic energy.

"We're proud to receive this award and pleased we've been able to apply our transmission and materials expertise," said Xtrac chief engineer Martin Halley, "Xtrac has been involved in MIA energy efficient motorsport initiatives since as far back as 2001, when we first considered the pros and cons of kinetic energy recovery. Obviously, we have to work to the rules permitted within motorsport regulations; therefore we're pleased with the decision by the FIA to permit energy recovery in F1 - particularly since it will provide a unique opportunity to demonstrate a new technology which could be extremely relevant to the wider automotive industry."

The FIA has defined the amount of energy recovery for the 2009 season as 400kJ per lap giving the driver an extra 80bhp over a period of 6.67 seconds. Flybrid, Torotrak and Xtrac believe that compared to the alternative of battery systems, a mechanical KERS system can provide a more compact, lighter and environmentally-friendly solution.

 

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