For the 2013 season, Renault powers four Formula One teams: Infiniti Red Bull, Lotus F1, Caterham F1, and Williams F1. And now the French automaker has a new powerplant for the world-class racers: a 1.6-liter turbocharged V6, complete with two electric motors.
Formula One announced that for 2014, the series would be moving away from the normally aspirated V8s it currently runs to smaller, turbocharged V6s, as Formula One innovations often translate into road-going cars for the general public.
Renault is the first to unveil its V6 concept, just ahead of Mercedes and Ferrari. The 1.6-liter turbocharged V6, according to MotorAuthority, produces near 750 horsepower, on par with the V8s of today. Diverging from our expectations, however, the Renault engine includes two electric motors.
Right now, F1 cars feature a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) that captures braking energy in the form of electricity or mechanical energy. The electric KERS use an electric motor. The new Renault V6 does much the same. One of the onboard electric motors creates electricity during engine braking, which stores that power in onboard lithium-ion batteries. This energy can be used to boost the gasoline engine on demand, adding an additional 161 horsepower.
Where the Renault motor diverges from the norm is with the second, exhaust-mounted motor. The second motor is attached with the turbocharger. The turbo’s turbines spin in the exhaust flow, which then turn the electric motor, creating electricity. This, too, charges the onboard lithium-ion batteries. Cleverly, the electric motor can also boost the turbo, effectively eliminating turbo lag.
Whether all of the Renault electric motor innovations will be F1 legal, however, is unclear. The FIA might allow it for a season and then change course, like it did in the early days of KERS.
Based upon these innovations from Renault, we cannot wait to see what Ferrari and Mercedes have come up with. Excitingly, the exhaust-mounted electric motor will surely make its way into mass-market car tech of the future.
Automakers are eagerly seeking out any drivetrain and power efficiencies they can get their hands on, as Federally mandated fuel efficiency standards begin to ratchet up.
The additional electric motor tied to the turbocharger turbine could decrease fuel consumption in production cars significantly and not just add additional power boost, as it does in the F1 engine. Many new, fuel-efficient cars feature turbochargers, take the Ford EcoBoost for example.
At present, when not in use, the spinning turbos are allowing energy to pass by that could be harnessed to power the vehicle when the gasoline engine is shut down in the form of electricity.