Tag Archives: KERS

Analysis: A brief study of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (MGU-K)

I wrote this brief study for my physics coursework and I thought it would be suitable for a blog post. As I found out during this write-up, information about KERS is extremely hard to come by as it is a very secretive area of engineering. I’ll have all my references at the bottom but before you read, it is worth mentioning that this is not a truly reliable study. I have done the best I can with the information I have found and I would like to thank Craig Scarborough (@ScarbsF1) for pointing me in the right direction on occasion. Enjoy!

Most hybrid vehicles today utilise a rechargeable electric motor running alongside an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), which in turn generates the electricity needed to power the aforementioned motor. In terms of satisfying changes needed to combat climate change, hybrid vehicles are arguably a step in the right direction. However all-electric power is an even more sustainable solution but they require an alternative energy source (hybrids use the mechanical movement of an ICE) to generate the electricity needed to power the electric motor.

In years gone by, the Motor-Generator Unit[2] (MGU) has primarily been used to convert currents. However over the past decade this technology has been harnessed to increase the efficiency of vehicles, more specifically road-going vehicles such as cars, buses and lorries. MGUs, in the motoring world, can now be referred to as energy recovery systems, their most common application being in how they recover energy that is normally lost under braking.

Work is done at the brakes (by friction) to slow the vehicle down and this dissipates heat energy as a result of the contact between the brake pad and the braking surface (e.g. a disc). This lost energy can be recovered by inputting a generator into the drive system. When the vehicle is under deceleration, the generator harvests this previously lost energy – it acts as a highly resistive force when generating electricity so less force is needed on the braking surface. Therefore less work is done at the brakes and thus less heat is dissipated. Energy has been recovered from the braking phase which can now be used for other purposes, such as powering an electric motor that provides a drive for the vehicle.

These are the basic principles of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS)[9]. It recovers kinetic energy normally lost under braking, stores it (in a chemical or mechanical energy store) and is then used to power the vehicle during acceleration. KERS is, effectively, a glorified MGU: it is well-known for its use in Formula One over the past five years although the technology has expanded rapidly into road cars and other forms of motorsport.

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Analysis: 2014 – Braking

Although it has not cropped up extensively in the media, braking (in particular brake bias and control) will be an important design consideration for 2014. This is down to the introduction of the new power units, which – due to the additional recovery power of the MGU-K – makes the bias difficult to adjust and control.

Current Braking System and KERS

In this section of this post I am going to break (pardon the pun) down the key characteristics of the current (2009-2013) braking system and how each component affects each other.

Since 2009 (excluding 2010), Formula 1 has utilised the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) that increases the efficiency of the braking system, transferring the previously lost energy to a battery. This energy can then be used to provide an additional boost of power at the driver’s disposal for 6.67 seconds per lap. The KERS harvests 60kW of power, which equates to about 80bhp – about the same power as a small family hatchback car.

It does this via a Motor Generator Unit (MGU). As the driver brakes, the engine drives the generator of the MGU which acts as a resistive force to the driveshaft connected to the wheels. The MGU transfers the energy recovered from the generator to the battery. When the driver pushes the KERS button the energy is sent back to the motor of the MGU, adding power to the engine.

Image via racecar-engineering.com

Image via racecar-engineering.com

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