Formula 1 continues along the path of electrification, having recently approved the new regulations for hybrid engines of 2026, on which the electric power will go from 120 to 350 kW, resulting in fact almost tripled compared to the current values. There is though great perplexity about the possibilities of powering such a powerful electric motor in a perpetual way, as there are not enough energy sources on board the vehicle. In fact, the MGU-H, the generator coupled to the turbocharger unit, which, by regenerating energy from the exhaust gases, would have allowed to directly power the main electric motor, the MGU-K, or the battery, will disappear. Accumulator whose charge also cannot drop more than 4 MJ of energy per lap, equal to just 1.1 kWh, underlining the framework of energy shortage that had initially led Formula 1 to evaluate the regeneration of energy in braking also from the front axle.
Claudio Lombardian engineer with important past experience in the engine departments of Ferrari and Lancia, commented on the pages of FormulaPassion.it how complex it will be to feed the hybrid part on the new engines for a long time: “The power of the MGU-K will be 350 kW, or 476 horsepower. On the battery, however, there is already a limitation not on its capacity, but on the difference between the maximum and minimum energy level on the lap that can be had in the accumulator, which is 1.1 kWh. With this energy storage and 350 kW of power though, on a straight line like that of Monza all 1.1 kWh are consumedbecause with a simple calculation it is obtained that 10 seconds are enough to exhaust everything ”.
Going into detail, the regulation provides that the limit to the maximum electric power decreases at high speeds, dropping from the 350 kW granted at 300 km / h up to 150 kW from 340 km / h up. By doing so, on a straight the MGU-K will be able to deliver the maximum regulatory power for times slightly longer than the estimated ten seconds, but the fact remains that, even with regeneration performed under braking, the hybrid system will go over the lap. in energy trouble. Lombardi therefore foresees that the electric power distribution strategies during the lap will be an even more determining factor than what is currently happening: “I expect teams to develop special software to be thrifty in using these 350 kW, software that will vary from circuit to circuit. On a track with numerous stops, with the possibility of storing a lot of energy during the lap, the scenario is different and you can have a higher average power output. In the stretches where the pilot does not need the maximum power from the thermal engine, part of this will be used to recharge the battery. The average power per lap will therefore be variable ”.
Inevitably, the thrifty management of electric power will make it very difficult to perpetually exploit the 1000 peak horsepower. “The thermal engine will have a fuel flow rate of around 70 kg / h”continues Lombardi. “From the data I have available dating back to 2017, when the capacity limit was 100 kg / h, the power of the heat engine alone was 700 horsepower, which reached efficiencies of 45-46%, to which 70 were added horses of the MGU-K. According to the information in my possession, from 2016/2017 until now they would have improved these values by 10%. Therefore, if the overall efficiency has been improved by 10%, you return to 770 horsepower with the thermal alone. Starting from this, reducing the instantaneous range by 30% at the same efficiency, we go down to 540 horses, which with the 476 horses of the electrical part they can instantly reach 1000 horsepower combined, but not as average power per lap“.
In fact, it is no coincidence that the FIA and Formula 1 are studying aerodynamic and chassis solutions capable of reducing fuel consumption and drag while preserving current performance. “The engine regulations in the future will need certain aerodynamic characteristics to have a complete package“explained in July Nikolas Tombazis, FIA Technical Director, a FormulaPassion.it. “We have already carried out feasibility studies in the aerodynamic part to be sure that the goals we set are realistic and not ambitious. I think we have succeeded in this, so much so that we have already provided the teams with some initial forms to allow them to carry out checks to make sure they are not on the wrong path ”. However, although the speed performance of the cars may not be affected by the new control strategies of the power units, software development could become an important technical challenge area according to Lombardi: “If everything stays this way, the software will have a considerable range for the distribution of electrical and thermal power over the lap, which may vary from circuit to circuit. This could become a determining factor and if they did not impose a standard software it would lead to significant differences, going against the tide of the objectives they have set themselves.”, Concluded the engineer.
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