Thursday, September 11, 2008

KERS Technology: On Its Way To Success or Failure?

What is Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS)?

Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) is defined as mechanical device used in capturing kinetic energy while a vehicle slows down. Unlike other hybrid vehicles appearing to be heavy in weight due to excessive conversion of kinetic energy to electrical energy, KERS is believed to have a lighter and compact engine power system. This mechanical device, which has a rough total mass of not more than 25 kg., only adds 55 lbs to the original vehicle's weight and you can guarantee the mechanical efficiency of your car has reached its optimum level.

KERS and its Benefits

There are several benefits of KERS. Aside from the fact that it improves the acceleration level of your car in a short period of time, this device can also save fuel and the cost is cheaper compared to other regenerative brakes.

Due to its mechanical efficiency, the use of KERS gives relaxation to your vehicle's motor engine and for this, there will be a great transformation in racing sports in the near future.

Issues About KERS and The Formula One

President Max Mosley has stated that Formula One Event will use KERS in 2009 to improve its competitive and performance edge. According to Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia, “The hybrid system that will be implemented in Formula 1 is known as KERS, which stands for Kinetic Energy Recovery System. The maximum power that can be released from such a system is restricted to 60 kW by the FIA. Energy can either be stored as mechanical energy (as in a flywheel) or can be stored as electrical energy (as in a battery or supercapacitor).”

Flybird F1 is the first featured power system in KERS technology. This power system weighs 24 kg, has 5.0 kg diameter, has 18 Nm maximum torque, has an energy capacity of 400 kJ, and has a minimum power boost of 60 kW in 6.67 seconds. For more relevant information about this system, it is featured in Racecar Engineering Magazine.

Unluckily, what's believed to be a great technology has also its downslides. One report said, using KERS batteries can be deathly and causes arsenic poison to human drivers. In July 2008, Formula One has recorded two minor accidents involving KERS. The Red Bull Racing Team was caught in a fire scare incident when their KERS battery breaks down. During the fire scare incident, Christian Horner, the team principal of Red Bull Racing Team, said.

“Basically, in a controlled environment we had a battery that basically ran away with itself. It was contained within a chemical, as a safety precaution to keep it cool, that let off quite a lot of steam and unfortunately caused about two hours of disruption in the main factory as the smoke had to be dealt with by the fire brigade. It was not a major incident and never at any point dangerous, but one that we obviously had to take all precautions with.”

In Jerez Spain of the same year, an BMW Sauber mechanic suffered an electrical shock when he tested the said device on Christian Klien's KERS-loaded vehicle.

"The mechanic suffered an electric shock after touching the sidepod and steering wheel of the car," said BMW's head of powertrain development Markus Duesmann. "There was a high frequency AC voltage between these contact points, the cause of which has been traced back to the KERS control unit and a sporadic capacitive coupling from the high-voltage network to the 12-volt network. The voltage ran through the wiring of the 12-volt network to the steering wheel and through the carbon chassis back to the control unit.”

It was reported the BMW Sauber has already forwarded a FIA copy of the investigation to the Technical Group and due to the complex nature of the KERS system, the results of the investigation were delayed.

"The driver was insulated against the car by his racing overalls and gloves and therefore not in any danger,” Duesmann added. “In addition to the measures required to tackle the issue at hand, the extremely far-reaching analysis we conducted also gave rise to other recommendations which are of great value for the development of electric KERS systems. In the absence of data, all the theoretical possibilities had to be systematically investigated and analysed in tests.”

"We will resume the testing programme once all the necessary amendments to the safety concept have been implemented. We expect this to be the case in the autumn."

What's The Future for KERS?

Due to these alarming issues, the use of KERS will not be compulsory for the next season of Formula One. For now, the future of KERs technology still marks a big question for everyone. When the mystery behind this system remains unsolved, it may only lead to havoc. For the mechanical experts out there, the improvement of KERS technology is a massive challenge and hopefully, this system will bring new heights of efficiency and functionality not only to the racing world but to the humankind.

Photos and Information courtesy of:


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