Good Bye Engines – Hello Power Trains

Diagram of 2014 Formula 1 energy recovery system, it's far more than just an engine

Diagram of 2014 Formula 1 energy recovery system, the engine itself is only part of the package

Formula 1 racing is changing the rules for next year, there are radical body work changes of no particular interest to any of us outside of the sport, but the engine changes should be interesting to all of us, whether you follow F1 or not. In fact, using the term "engine" isn't quite right, there are so many additional bits of technology adding power, it's more accurate to use the term "power train" to be clear about what's moving those high tech racers around the track. Some of it may eventually make its way into the two wheel world, as well, in one form or another.

It's a lot more than the engine

The first change is straight forward, 2.4-liter naturally aspirated V8 is out, 1.6-liter V6 turbos are in. OK, so far, so good, but here's where it begins to get interesting. Energy recovery systems will be used to make the entire package match or exceed the previous engines in power output.

there are now two electrical motors rather than one, driving an energy recovery system that has twice the power and 10 times the capacity of the Kers F1 has used since 2011. This is now referred to simply as Ers - Energy Recovery System, because it is regenerating more than just kinetic energy.

Kers produced 60kw that could be used for 6.7 seconds a lap. From 2014, Ers will have 120kw for just over 30 seconds a lap.

One of those motors is for the KERS which captures brake energy for use on acceleration, but the second motor is on the turbo which can perform multiple duties. Instead of a waste gate to bleed over pressure, the electric motor can be used to capture that energy and limit turbo speed in the process. The energy can be used to charge the battery pack and then used to keep the turbo at speed for instant response, eliminating turbo lag.

Two more rules in the F1 changes, maximum fuel flow rate and maximum amount of fuel used in the race will drive this energy recovery technology in a direction that may apply to the vehicles the rest of us use on public roads.

How does this apply to motorcycles?

Motorcycles have long had exhaust driven turbos and bottles of nitrous for that extra boost of power, but that may be changing as energy recovery systems get better. Instead of a big shot of nitrous, now the energy stored earlier can be released into electric motors to boost acceleration or to bring the turbo up to speed instantly. It may also be completely computer controlled, no button to push for boost, just set a switch for economy or performance and let the CPU do all of the work while you concentrate on riding.

Once you begin to think about power in any form instead of just internal combustion or electricity and when you recover energy formerly dissipated as waste for use all over again, cars, trucks, motorcycles or any other vehicles suddenly become a lot more efficient, powerful and technically interesting all at the same time. Any mechanic, going forward, is going to need a lot more knowledge to keep up and those that stay on top of all of this are going to be in big demand. Fascinating developments.

Link: BBC Sport

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  1. B50 Jim says

    Astounding. Much of this R&D will translate right over to street cars and motorcycles, and we all benefit from it. Meanwhile, over at NASCAR they’re still using pushrods and carburetors. What does that say for American racing? There was a time when Grand National stock cars were the proving ground for the latest technology. Now it’s the elephant’s graveyard for 20th-century non-technology.

    • Kevin says

      I believe NASCAR is actually fuel injected. And when Formula 1 engineers wanted to learn how to make more power, they researched what NASCAR was doing, because they were actually pushing the limits more as far as piston forces and engine stress. F1 learned from them and there have been many develpments come from NASCAR.
      And as far as transferring to road cars, pushrod road car engines are more powerful for their weight, less maintenance, cheaper and last longer. And compare the MPG of a Corvette to a Ferrari.

      And before you say anything, I don’t care for the sport of NASCAR.

      • todd says

        We’ve been over this before; I think we determined the BMW 1000RR engine has the highest power to weight out of any naturally aspirated engine we can recall.

    • CJ says

      Yawn, what a tired and whiney argument about NASCAR. NASCAR is entertainment, not a technological proving ground. I don’t see how you can possibly compare the two. And you’re wrong, NASCAR is fuel injected. But seriously, who cares?

  2. dave says

    The term Powertrain has been around for a long time. It simply means a group of components that produce and distribute power to the road surface or wheels. There will be an engine and/or motor to explain what produces the power, and a transmission of sorts that controls the power, plus all of the electronics and fuel/power sources that provide the energy for operation. However, being a mechanic for 20 years, I have used the term Powertrain as a whole usually with the PCM (Powertrain Control Module). As in a full diagnoses of any vehicle with driveability problems one must consider every component of the powertrain during testing.

    • Paul Crowe says

      Obviously, the term has been around for a long time, there just hasn’t been as many components involved in producing power, it was primarily an engine and then everything that carries and distributes the power from the engine or electric motor. Now the energy comes from multiple devices and even from recovered energy formerly wasted. The ERS in the new F1 rules is limited to 161 bhp, that’s as much as some small engines all by themselves, and that is in addition to the engine.

      • dave says

        Yep, exactly. I still prefer the simplicity of one power source over 2 or 3 to move a vehicle. Seeing a hybrid move and not hearing any internal combustion happening it just to quiet for me. However the latest Honda Accord Hybrid Powertrain is pretty intriguing to say the least.

        • Paulinator says

          I had the displeasure of driving a Prius the other day. I’ve driven quicker forklifts. The lack of engine noise is even more alarming when all the horns seem so close and your passenger is screaming that he’s going to die.

          • scott123007 says

            You would have been funnier if you had said that you had driven “Harley’s faster than that”. At any rate all, joking aside, they’re a great all rounder; super roomy inside for their size, and mid to high 40′s mileage consistently, which is better than many motorcycles. Besides it’s a nice contrast to my 390hp Turbo Busa.

    • benT says

      I agree. I have always thought powertrain as a co-term to engine-gearbox-rear differential and anything hangin’ off ov it.


      Like the new layout, looking forward to the other changes.

  3. Paulinator says

    I haven’t followed F1 in years, but F1 used to run 1.5 litre turbos against 3.5 litre normal aspirated engines back in the eighties. BMW had a little turbo 4 that produced a stunning 1000 hp for time trials (8 to 9 hundred on race day). The turbos consistently slaughtered the larger displacement competition.

    I am not a strong believer in the trickle-down theory of automotive development, but this formula looks promising. The electric turbo with energy recovery is simply brilliant. I also hope they limit fuel burn to a gallon for every 20 miles…and maybe make wheels optional?

    • BigHank53 says

      Honda pushed their turbocharged engines further than that by the time FIA decided to axe the turbochargers. Every car would show up for the race with seven engines: two practice motors, two rain motors, two dry motors, and a qualifying motor that would produce peak power (over 1200 hp) for maybe three laps. If I recall correctly, nobody had won a race with anything but a Honda motor for a couple years by that time.

  4. Hooligan says

    But will it improve the quality of the racing? I’ve not watched F1 for years because it is a boring procession of cars and races are won and lost in the stops.

  5. OMMAG says

    I could be excited about the the use of smaller engines and more KERS technology if it was actually about performance and competition. Its not about either.

    F1 rules are no longer about competitiveness or promoting engineering progress. They are about the business entity and the governing body exerting control over the teams as they have over every other aspect of the “sport”.

    F1 is now, by design nothing more than cash generating machine where Formula One World Championship Limited and their de facto partner FIA have absolute control overall sources of revenue and the venues that are “allowed” to participate.

    When it comes to technical developments like KERS and engine configuration rules like displacement and the use of turbos, these are arbitrary and are done for the purpose of keeping the teams from sorting their own best solutions and creating actual engineering solutions to the problem of building the best race cars. They are road blocks forcing the teams to play a game of technical snakes and ladders that prevents the best from being the best and substituting control for competition.

    These 2014 changes are being forced on the teams because the race teams had clearly sorted out how to make the most of the previous rules structure and were showing the sort of competitiveness that they are capable of. This makes it difficult for F1 to make the most of its marketing by perpetuating the idea that there are more than three or four competitive teams.

    I truly wish that the race teams could break free of the FIA and F1 to run their own series for the sake of competition. Sadly, this is most unlikely.

    • Paul Crowe says

      Don’t let the F1 soap opera get in the way of seeing what is happening to the tech. The control of the teams and sponsor dollars and all of that is a sideshow. Just keep your eye on what the teams do within these new rules to make their cars faster and more efficient. That’s what’s interesting here. We may see some really neat innovations. The teams and fans will complain and the early races may be a struggle, but I have a hunch they’ll sort it out and that’s when it will be fun to see what they’ve done, at least as much as we’ll be able to tell because they’ll be trying to keep their advances secret as long as possible.

  6. Rob says

    There was bit of a hoax a while back for electric superchargers, I always thought it was a good idea that would progress beyond a mere scam.

  7. Jiro says

    I am guessing your statement “pushrod road car engines are more powerful for their weight, less maintenance, cheaper and last longer.” refers to V8s and perhaps a few sixes. What four cylinder OHV would you like to compare to vast majority of OHC fours or threes? I am not familiar with all the OHV sixes, but how do they compare to the OHC sixes? I often wished that a v-6 derivative of the LS series would be great but by some accounts it isn’t. Actually, I would think a 60 degree OHV V6 with a high cam would be a good mix of features but I don’t think any exist.

    • Paulinator says

      That very engine exists in large numbers. Check out the little 3.8 litre Trenton sixty-degree v6. I had one in my 4200 pound “mini”-van.

  8. .Chris. says

    I wonder how they combat reversion with that turbocharger energy recovery system. I would think that forcing the turbo to drive a motor would raise manifold pressure substantially.

  9. Tom Lyons says

    I think that it probably should be made clear that the regenerative technology being discussed can be used on pushrod engines too, and(gasp!) even American engines and vehicles.
    The technology does not discriminate based on valve train type.
    But it’s clear that some PEOPLE like to engage in that.

  10. Troy says

    All I know is this. 2013 overall was boring. I for one don’t care to see one driver win that many races in a row. Take away the launch control and other gimmicks and let’s see who’s really got “the stuff”. F1 just got my attention back after the farse involving Shumacher and Barrichello when they ordered Ruebens to pull up to allow Michael to pass for the win. Sad and pathetic that was and I was done. F1 will lose me if next season is the same as this.

  11. rafe03 says

    R & D Technology can be really impressive when it’s starting to congeal just behind the cutting edge. All us gear-heads & bean-counters playing their expensive games. But all by itself, it’s not racing.

    But ask any racing driver or MotoGP rider to race for a buck with his buddies down at the local “rent-a-kart” franchise & then you’ll see some real racing! Anything with or without wheels Bud!

    Bring it on! Bar stools, rocket sleds, gravity racing, salt flats, sand dunes, frozen lakes, Different flavors, same adrenaline rush.

    BIG RACING like NASCAR, F1, V8 Supercars, etc may be all about the money. But don’t let that stand in the way of the racers. They’ll even make a good show racing office chairs. Different strokes for different folks.

    Now, enough of this gum flapping. Go get yur wheels (any number thereof) & lets go racing!

    Have a look at Swedish rocket sled world speed record racing – over a frozen lake!

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