Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Better engine efficiency and fuel consumption in F1 this season

Analysis: The efficiency race
(Renault Sport F1)

Formula One made some BIG changes over the course of the winter of 2013 ahead of the 2014 season. The main one being that the sport shifted to a greener formula as it abandoned the 2.4 litre V8 engine's in favour of more energy efficient 1.6 litre turbo charged V6 power units. Many fans of Formula One were skeptical about the change however the racing this year has been fantastic and the new power units sound amazing.

So what has Formula One achieved this season compared to 2013?

1. A two-second gain in a single year

2013 saw F1 cars fitted with normally aspirated V8s delivering around 800bhp (that’s 590kW without the extra 60kW provided by the KERS). Monza’s speed traps recorded single-seaters clock around 340kph, with pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel posting a lap of 1:23.755 in qualifying aboard his Infiniti Red Bull Racing-Renault. A year later the fastest Q3 time was 1:24.109, achieved with a car weighing 50kg heavier – a 1.8secs deficit – and using harder tyres. Once these differences have been accounted for and the times corrected, this year’s lap represents a two-second gain over the course of 12 months.

2. Fuel consumption down to 1.9kg per lap

The 2014 regulations also brought another revolution with a 35% reduction in the amount of fuel permitted for each race (100kg against 150kg last year). It’s been made possible thanks to the V6 engine’s high degree of hybridisation: 20% of the power is now electric and comes from the energy recovered under braking and harvested at the exhaust. The average Monza consumption rate therefore went from 2.5kg per lap in 2013 to under 1.9kg a lap this year. With the same mass, the corrected 2014 time is faster.

3. An F1 car’s energy source distribution

The vast majority of energy available came from the 160kg of fuel used by the car. Power generated by fossil energy and transferred to the wheels reached 30%, while the remainder escaped in the air. A single KERS unit also ensured the share of electric power remained quite limited.


With a 100kg restriction in fuel mass, the share of electric power has grown significantly. A greater percentage is now transferred to the wheels, which vastly improves the overall energy efficiency. Electric energy is much more important (4MJ) than it was last year. It comes from two different sources: braking and the exhaust.

4. Better energy efficiency

In 2013 an F1 car’s efficiency was rated at 30%, which has increased to 40% in 2014. This has been made possible by reducing the internal combustion engine’s displacement (and amount of friction), the introduction of a turbocompressor, and cutting the number of revs (from 18,000 to 13,000). The efficiency of a car fitted with an internal combustion engine cannot exceed 50%. Only a fully electric engine can achieve a much higher efficiency. To do so, however, requires 25 tons of batteries!

© Ben Johnston 2014

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