F1 Research Could Boost Hybrids

Oct. 1, 2007: Source – BBC

F1 Williams Team

As this year’s Formula One world championship draws to a close, the racing teams are already preparing for future competitions. The BBC spoke with Alex Burns, chief operating officer of the Williams F1 team, who sees the increasing use of supercomputers as a critical competitive advantage. The supercomputers are primarily used for simulating the aerodynamic performance of F1 vehicles. A simulation which three years ago took three days to complete can now be done in four hours, using supercomputers which rank among the most powerful supercomputers in the world.

If all this sounds like resources misapplied to sports—when real-world drivers are the ones who need a solution to moving more efficiently down the road—then consider two things. First, the R&D investment in F1 racing can readily end up in your family car. “We are really a product development house. We take emergent technologies and we convert them into products,” said Burns.

And second, in 2009, F1 teams will begin using hybrid technology to capture energy from deceleration and store that energy for use when the car accelerates. Burns believes this could give the hybrid world a big boost—especially when hundreds of millions of F1 fans catch wind of the benefits of hybrid technology. “Research from Formula One [for hybrids] would filter to road car manufacture in the way that anti-lock braking has in the past.”

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