Thursday, January 12, 2012

Electric racer unveiled that's as fast as Formula 1

The Lola-Drayson B12/69EV project pioneer

A demonstration all-electric car that's as fast as a Formula 1 racer was showcased at yesterday's MIA Low Carbon Racing Conference at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre (NEC).

The Lola-Drayson B12/69EV project pioneer was shown to Minister for Trade and Investment, Lord Green by its co-developer Lord Paul Drayson, the former Minister of Science and Innovation, both of whom were speaking at the conference.

Lord Drayson hopes the car will enter the first FIA Formula E contest for EVs, which begins in 2013.

He said, "It uses the latest battery technology and aerodynamics to maximise power to 850 peak horsepower.

″We've been working with Lola on the aerodynamics. The surface of the car changes as you approach higher speeds," he explained. "You reduce or lower the wings when going down the straights for example."

Motorsport is being used more and more as a way of trialing and developing low carbon vehicle technologies, such as hybrids, alternative fuels, batteries, sustainable and intelligent materials.

"Electric racing cars change perceptions and make people want a road car," continued Lord Drayson. "They also develop the technology later used in road cars, such as better batteries.

"This car uses wireless charging. That's something which is sure to come to road cars in the not-too-distant future.

"We want to encourage the mainstream manufacturers to participate in this. These cars will have torque-steer, and torque-steer is very relevant to road-car technology," he said.

Revolutionary flywheels

Also on show at the event, which continues all week, is the Flybrid flywheel, which won the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership 2011 Award for Low Carbon Innovation by an SME last November, given to the company providing "the most promising technology that can reduce vehicle carbon emissions by any means".

The revolutionary flywheel is connected to a vehicle's transmission so that when the ratio is changed to speed up, the flywheel stores energy, and when the ratio is changed to slow down that energy is then recovered.

This is another technology, already used in Formula 1, which will spin off into road use.

Although not new in principle, Flybrid's innovations, for which it has several patents, let the flywheel rotate at over 60,000rpm, making it much smaller and lighter than has previously been possible, and with insignificant gyroscopic forces.

With a design life of 250,000km, the technology greatly extends battery life.

Also involved is the Sustainable Vehicle Engineering Centre (SVEC) at Oxford Brookes University, which is researching lighter materials, design issues and drivetrain concepts.

The Lola-Drayson partnership

Lord Drayson and Lola’s Executive Chairman, Martin Birrane, first dreamed up their project at the Autosport show two years ago.

Lola specialise in lightweight structures for the aerospace, defense, renewable and automotive sectors, and Drayson Racing has been involved in green racing since 2007, experimenting with biofuels and carbon capture.

Their car is an electric ultra high-performance vehicle based upon the current Lola LMP1 chassis.

Lola is responsible for all aspects of the chassis and aerodynamics of the car and Drayson Racing Technologies is responsible for all aspects of the drive-train and systems integration.

It functions as a technology demonstration platform for the novel technologies being developed by the project consortium, and is designed to break the lap records for electric vehicles at street, circuit and hill climb tracks around the world and show the speed potential of an EV, lapping circuits faster than a current LMP1 diesel.

High-performance electric motor cooling is another issue being tackled.

"The shape of the car is very different," Lord Drayson said. "That's because the regulations in Formula E are completely open on aerodynamics, so therefore you start with a clean sheet of paper.

"It's going to be central cockpit, a cross between a single-seater and a Le Mans car, a real emphasis on reducing drag because of the importance of low-drag - not so much downforce as you'd see on a single-seater car, but active aerodynamic surfaces to give you sufficient downforce.

"It looks great, but it looks like nothing else."

How the car works

The Lola LMP is designed and engineered by a team from Lola, Drayson, BAE Systems, Halo IPT, A123, Mavizen, YASA Motors, Rhinehart, Cosworth and Multimatic.

It will be powered by electricity stored in a new generation of highly advanced Lithium Nanophosphate® battery cells made by A123 Systems, used for the first time on the Lola-Drayson racing car.

The battery cells are housed in a pack manufactured by Mavizen and drive the four axial flux Oxford YASA motors via inverters supplied by Rhinehart.

Battery charging will happen through a HaloIPT wireless induction system which will utilise coils within the floor of the car which will enable recharging by the car parking over a recharging pad.

The motors generating over 850 peak horsepower will power the rear wheels only, producing more power than the petrol equivalent.

The actual motors will be mounted in a similar place to where there the existing powerplant is located. These will be fitted to the driveshafts and the wheels will be driven in a very similar way to how they are now.

The car will not change gears, but has a single reduction gear linking the drive from the electric motors to the driveshafts.

It will weigh in at about 1000 kg, slightly over the regular 900kgs in LMP1 presently.

The control system is supplied by Drayson Racing Technologies with Cosworth, who supplied the original system for the 2010 LMP1 car.

In addition to the completely new electric drivetrain, the car will benefit from new aerodynamic features being developed by Lola in conjunction with BAE Systems and a new recycled carbon fibre technology.

The Formula E championship

The deadline for expressions of interest in Formula E is in five days' time.

Formula E has an almost open rulebook, with the main stipulation being a maximum battery weight of 300kg.

Given that electric cars are silent, in great contrast to the rip-roaring noises everyone associates with Formula 1, the FIA say that they will give "particular attention" to "the sound signature and design of the cars" proposed by those tendering.

A decision will be made at the World Motorsport Council meeting on March 9 and, in the event of a favourable decision, the Lola-Drayson car will be ready for testing soon after, with Formula E starting in 2013.

Drayson believes EVs have the potential to revolutionise racing. "It's natural when a new technology comes that people think it isn't going to be as good as what they know, and that's why we're doing this. When people see it, they will be amazed," he said.

The cars will be on show at Autosport International 2012, from Thursday 12th to Sunday, 15th January.

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