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KERS: power electronics

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Whenever we hear about Formula One KERS systems, or the much-vaunted hybrid systems as used at Le Mans and in a growing number of roadcars, many of us imagine a large alternator being used to change mechanical energy into electrical energy (or vice versa) and a battery for converting the electrical energy into chemical energy and provide short-term storage. There is a third, very important, module that is part of a typical racing KERS system, and this is the power electronics. The aim here...

Electric motors: cooling concepts

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The rise of hybrid drive technology, both in the production automotive sphere and latterly in racing, is something I hope will breathe new life into both realms of engineering. Years of racing powertrain regulation have led to some fantastic pieces of machinery powering cars and motorcycles around the circuits of the world, but they have become increasingly irrelevant to the direction of mainstream production vehicles. If we take the energy storage aspect of hybrid powertrains (electrical...

Flywheel design

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With all the press coverage of Formula One KERS systems, you might be forgiven for thinking that all racing hybrid systems are of the 'conventional' electric-hybrid type. This is far from the case, and if you look a little deeper, there are a number of systems that are based on mechanical technology rather than electric machines, power electronics and batteries If you want to see real diversity of technology in terms of energy recovery then you need look no further than sportscar...

Brushless permanent magnet motors

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If we look at the high end of the market as far as racecar alternators are concerned, we see very special productions by only a few manufacturers. Such alternators are chosen for a number of reasons, not least of which is their notable compactness. They are permanent magnet machines, and can be found nestled alongside the engines in Formula One cars. The same technology is used widely in industry and the military, and is also commonly found in various hybrid systems, including those used...


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Formula racing in Europe has something of a complex 'ladder' scheme, by which drivers can try to reach Formula One, the pinnacle of the open-wheel sport outside the US. It might equally be described as a climbing frame, where there are many routes one can use to get to the top. The various Formula Renault series though do provide a good graduation scheme, starting with relatively cheap cars powered by four-cylinder engines, through to the top series which, from 2012, is to be powered...