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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why we STILL won't see KERS at Le Mans this weekend

KERS systems have been approved by the Automobile Club De L’Ouest (ACO) for use in the 2010 Le Mans 24-Hours race for the first time, though only in the LM P1 class. There are currently no entrants who have agreed to run such hybrid cars at this year’s event.

Any LMP1 car contesting the Le Mans 24 Hours with KERS has to comply with the following specifications.

− Recovery of energy from the brakes on the 4 wheels or from the heat of the exhaust fumes.
− Only the rear wheels can be used to propel the car.
− Regarding energy recovery from the brakes, only electric systems are allowed.
− Only the storage of electric energy is permitted.
− The combustion engine and the electric motor must be controlled by the driver using the accelerator pedal (push to pass buttons forbidden).
− The quantity of usable energy stocked on board the vehicle must not exceed 1 MJ.
- The use of such a system must not be aimed at obtaining additional power but at reducing fuel consumption.

Where F1 KERS input / output is limited to the rear wheels only, the ACO allows input from all 4 wheels (70% of braking effort is on the front wheels so there is greater potential for energy regeneration / recovery) and the battery for storing the energy has a maximum of 1 MJ compared to just 400kJ (111 watt hour) of energy per lap in F1.

The ACO also allow recovery from the exhaust which can be either thermocouple, organic Rankine cycle (ORC) or even perhaps simply an electric generator run off an exhaust gas driven turbo expander very similar to a regular turbocharger.

It has been speculated that Toyota may return to Le Mans with a hybrid but they are not on the entry list.

The only other manufacturer aside from Toyota to have a hybrid race car designed to do 24 hour races is Porsche. The reason Porsche can only run demonstration laps with their 911 GT3 Hybrid? Two reasons 1) The GT3 isn't in the LM P1 class and 2) The ACO in their infinite wisdom have specifically banned flywheel energy storage systems which, of course, is exactly what Porsche have chosen to use in the GT3 Hybrid.

What we will see at Le Mans in 2010 is a 2 lap demonstration run including the following vehicles:

PORSCHE 911 GT3 R Hybrid
AUDI e-Tron
PEUGEOT RCZ HYbrid4 Concept
The electric FERRARI 599XX HPDC
The electric TESLA
The hydrogen MAZDA RX-8 RE
The hydrogen BMW
The natural gas VOLKSWAGEN Scirocco
The electric SECMA F16
and the electric ANDROS

With such a token gesture for 2010 we can only hope for a REAL hybrid race entry in 2011.

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