The 2014 MIA Low Carbon Motorsport Conference debated the latest developments in the industry ranging from Lord Drayson’s Electric Land Speed Record to heat recovery systems. Green Car Guide brings you the highlights from the conference:
Lord Drayson’s World Record Electric Achievement and The Future Of Motorsport Power
It’s been two years since the unveiling of the Lola-Drayson B12/69EV . A beast of 850bhp, it does 0-60mph in 3 seconds dead, but achieved a much worthier accolade in summer last year when it broke the world record for electric land speed, clocking a speed of 205.139mph. Drayson said, “In learning so much about how to optimise the various components of the drivetrain…[we could] then really push the performance and prove the technology, which is relevant not just to the forthcoming Formula-E championship but also to the development of higher performance electric road cars.”
Drayson opted to focus on electric in 2010, yet Head of Audi’s Energy Systems, Thomas Laudenbach, isn’t as confident about the source of future power, “For me, we don’t know what the future will bring. Yes, for the moment we’re taking care of the electric powertrain because this is what we have and this is what is entering the market, but we do not know what it will be in ten or twenty years.”
Mark Preston, team principal of Super Aguri Formula-E has his own thoughts, “You can also separate it out to two questions: 1) the electric powertrain, where you control the power to the wheels, and 2) the power unit, which could be a battery or an amazing combination of hydrogen and diesel…or…whatever is the right thing.”
Aligning Values: Investment meets Regulation meets Innovation
The power in the engines wasn’t the only combination discussed. Chris Aylett, CEO of the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA) emphasised the need to foster co-operation between regulators and suppliers, to accelerate application in motorsport. This would then in turn provide a route to the mainstream market.
Steve Sapsford, of Ricardo, presented the Automotive Council’s roadmap for Motorsport technology . The roadmap offers manufacturers clarity of vision for the future, so they can exploit opportunities to innovate. Lawrence Davies, head of the UKTI’s Automotive Investment Organisation (AIO), highlighted that this roadmap also helped the government identify areas to invest. The government has made budget available for inward investment – a key phrase at the conference. Despite having a solid automotive export industry here in the UK, Davies feels more can be done internally, “Sadly, the supply base has diminished in the last few years and the average UK built car has 35% UK-built components, compared with German cars, which have approximately 60% German parts.”
The ‘green’ benefits in manufacturing closer to your supplier are obvious enough. Less transportation mileage, coupled with attractive tax regimes, technological know-how and a strong business network, Davies urges UK businesses to upscale and for overseas manufacturers to consider the UK for expansion.
Of course, development of the supply chain is only as strong as the regulators allow it to be. Though the UK benefits from eight of the eleven F1 teams being based here, Bernard Niclot, FIA Technical Director, admitted the FIA needs to work more closely with the supply chain manufacturers. Of those eleven teams seen on the grid each season, there are around 4,300 companies forming a supply chain. A question about the impermissible use of metal matrix from the floor prompted a good example of this. Niclot responded, “Today I feel it is important to reopen the book on the materials we use. We know that there are some materials that are important for road cars that are banned from motorsport. Probably there are materials in motorsport that are a bit too exotic and we should ban. And it’s a subject I have on my agenda this year with some material experts to see if we can improve in the future.”
One to watch: Heat Recovery Systems
However, we’re not likely to see much collaboration with our friends across the pond. Although seen as more liberal in terms of regulation – “we make our own rules” – Indycar and NASCAR are both unlikely to use KERS for another three or four years. In a world where motorsport is about the entertainment rather than the environment, it’s the driver, not the car, which is the star.
The outspoken Head of Engineering for Audi Sport, Ulrich Baretzky, highlighted the 33% cut in fuel consumption achieved at Le Mans through Audi’s use of diesel. He fiercely pointed out, “Being a gasoline man it doesn’t mean we’re not thinking green. The colour doesn’t matter, it’s the result. [It’s important that] the effects of the rules are green.”
These words may be something that the American regulators and spectators can take to heart when considering the future of US motorsport. They are undoubtedly lagging behind. This year will see some significantly greener changes in the rules to F1 and WEC, particularly with regard to heat recovery. Niclot said, “With exhaust recovery in F1 and WEC (World Endurance Championship), you will still be able to recover energy even if you are at high speeds… and this type of component will one day enter into road cars. This is typically how motorsport can help road cars development.”
Steve Sapsford: “That’s the one to watch, the heat waste recovery”.
By Cat Dow