Formula One is often the target of the environmentalists who claim it is far from green and does nothing to help in reducing average cars emissions. On the face of it that is a fair assumption – modern F1 cars rev to 18,000 rpm and aren’t exactly low fuel users – but that isn’t the point or the whole story!
F1 is all about being at the forefront of automotive technology, and some of the things that appear in F1 do find their way into our cars. Kers or regenerative braking is a classic example, most cars now have some form of this to help save energy.
There are also cases of tech not getting into F1 but the research not being wasted – the latest example being from Williams F1. This relates to a fuel-saving flywheel first developed for use in Formula One racing cars, but abandoned before it could be used due to a regulation change by the sport’s administrators, it will soon be retrofitted to a handful of London buses – with fuel savings estimated at up to 30%
Six prototype buses owned by Go-Ahead, one of the UK’s largest buses operators, are currently being fitted with the flywheels for a trial beginning later this year in and around Putney, south-west London. If successful, and contingent on raising the funding, Go-Ahead says it will consider fitting the flywheels across its 4,000-strong fleet of buses.
The price of fuel is what’s driving the interest in this now. If the payback can be shown to be under five years, it might even retrofit flywheels on buses that are already 10 years old.
Flywheels, have long been used as a method to store rotational energy. But their use in vehicles has been hindered by the fact that they need to be very heavy to store enough energy that can be of practical use. Williams Hybrid Power, a subsidiary of Williams F1, believes it has overcome this hurdle by developing a flywheel that is much lighter – about 50kg – than previous flywheels built for buses, but which rotates at speeds as fast as 40,000 rpm. The other significant advantage is that the flywheels can be fitted to buses already in operation, unlike competing technologies such as hybrid electric batteries that have to be fitted in the factory during manufacture.
So F1 is supporting the drive to a greener future and is is getting exciting to watch again – a win win situation!