FIA WEC – The future is here

September 17, 2014

FIA WEC – The future is here

September 17, 2014

prototypes_WECAudi, Toyota and Porsche are developing exciting new technologies for the future of transportation, but their latest efforts are not simply meant to be on display, they are on the track here at Circuit of The Americas.

Featuring technologies such as electric wheel motors, flywheel hybrids, KERS, ERS and ultra-capacitors, the latest Hybrid prototypes are entered here at the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) Lone Star Grand Prix.

WEC rules challenge manufacturers to dramatically reduce energy use by 30 percent while matching or exceeding race speeds from traditionally powered racing prototypes and encourage a range of technologies.

Developing technology in motorsports is not without risk, but each of the three manufacturers, soon to be joined by Nissan, has boldly chosen a path linked to promising technologies for future consumer vehicles.

Having enjoyed great success on track and in extending the market for its diesel offerings, Audi has chosen a four liter V6 turbo-diesel engine paired with electric wheel motors mounted on the front axles.

AUTO - WEC 6 HOURS OF SILVERSTONE 2014For Toyota, the TS040 HYBRID combines 480HP of four-wheel-drive hybrid boost in addition to the 520HP 3.7 liter petrol engine, a maximum power of 1000HP. Toyota claims it represents the most advanced hybrid technology in racing.

Toyota explains that under deceleration, the motor-generators apply braking force in combination with traditional mechanical brakes to harvest energy, which is transferred via inverter (AISIN AW at the front, DENSO at the rear) to the NISSHINBO super-capacitor. During acceleration, the motor/generator reverses its function, acting as a motor to deliver a 480HP power boost.

Not to be outdone, Porsche has chosen a “game changing” radical gasoline-powered V4 engine for its Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 car with a single turbocharger sitting between the banks of the turbocharged 16-valve 2.0 liter direct-injection 4-cylinder engine designed specifically to package itself with a hybrid system.

The turbo V4 engine is responsible for driving the rear wheels only, while an electric system drives the front. Two energy recuperation systems, KERS and ERS, are installed on the car. The KERS system harvests kinetic energy from the brakes while the ERS harvests energy from the turbochargers. The batteries on board are lithium-ion units supplied by U.S.-based A123 Systems.

AUTO - WEC 6 HOURS OF SILVERSTONE 2014Porsche’s drivers include former F1 driver Mark Webber, former Lola/Rebellion LMP1 driver Neel Jani, and former Le Mans winners Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas.

An official fuel flow meter monitors fuel usage and penalties are assessed if a three lap average consumption exceeds defined limits.

The capacity of the electric power, battery size and efficiency of the storage and integration of the two systems are critical in the development of future vehicles.

Packaging all of the hardware, electronics and engine into an aerodynamic car and sustaining performance for 24 hours is a massive challenge.

Drivers must also adapt to the technologies and develop an ability to achieve optimum lap times with varying levels of electrical power and energy use in traffic and changing conditions.

The WEC LMP1 teams are free to choose key technical partners, and the Audi, Porsche and Toyota hybrids have all chosen Michelin, winner of the last 17 consecutive Le Mans 24 Hour races.

Michelin engineers work from the outset of design in continuing collaboration with each manufacturer to optimize race performance and efficiency while developing Michelin’s own innovative technologies and insights for future vehicles.

_RD49483audiAt the 24 Hours of Le Mans this past June, all three led the race at various stages with the winning Audi competing over 3,200 miles with an average speed of 133.549 miles per hour for the race. And a fastest race lap of 150.504 mph.

Equally impressive was that the winning Audi R18 e-tron quattro diesel hybrid used 22 percent less fuel than its 2013 winner. Audi, now a 13 time overall race winner at Le Mans, has reduced the fuel use of the winning car by 38 percent since 2006. The winning car used just 12 sets of MICHELIN® tires in the race and was able to run four consecutive stints on the same set of tires.

After pointing out that “our new TS040 HYBRID is the most technologically-advanced TOYOTA ever to compete on the track,” Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President sums it up, “We consider it very important that our racing program contributes to TOYOTA’s wider activities and I am very proud that data, knowledge and technology pass regularly from our racing program to our R&D colleagues, who are working to make great road cars of the future.”

That is indeed the approach of the manufacturers and technology developers.

And for fans here at COTA, the future is on the track today.

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