Dutch students building a ‘Ring beating hybrid racer

What is wrong with college kids today? In my day our greatest aspiration was to get through class and maybe meet someone pretty. It certainly wasn’t building a race car that hopes to not only win at Le Mans but also beat the all time lap record at the Nurburgring. But that is exactly what students from the Technical University of Eindhoven and the Fontys University of Applied sciences want to do.

The car dubbed the IM01 is being built for the InMotion motorsport company and as you would expect given the goals it should have some pretty impressive technology.

The crucial piece of the puzzle is a hybrid drivetrain that features four electric motors, one at each wheel, powered by batteries, and charged by a rotary engine. Rotaries have been around for a long time, thanks to inventor Felix Wankel and of course Mazda, but they may have finally found their niche in systems like the one proposed by InMotion.

Run at a fixed rpm and used as a generator, rotaries can generate a lot of power very efficiently thanks to lower resistance and vibration. The InMotion team is shooting for 60 percent efficiency (meaning 60 percent of the potential power of the fuel is converted to useful mechanical energy), which might sound low, but the average efficiency of an internal combustion engine is only around 25 percent.

This hybrid system should not only provide plenty of power it should help with handling thanks to the possibility of torque vectoring using the four electric motors to drive each wheel at the correct speed for cornering.

Predictably aerodynamics feature heavily in the IM01’s design. The result looks a bit like the love child of a Tron light-cycle, a land speed record car, and F16 Fighting Falcon. This will no doubt produce more downforce than produced by the cast of Duck Dynasty. There are also some active touches, for instance hot air from the engine is used in a blown diffuser which actively disrupts the air behind the car to create a smoother slipstream.

All of this sounds impressive, but for now it is firmly in the territory of imagination. A project like this will need money, time, and luck to succeed. Especially as the goal set by the team is to compete at Le Mans in 2017. Still I can’t help but hope they succeed.

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