Ferdinand Porsche once said, “The perfect racing car crosses the finish line first, then crumbles into its individual parts.” What a catch, right? Well, in the 90s, that’s the best they could hope for.
Let’s go back to the 1990s of Formula 1 (F1). The era was marked by extreme competition between racing teams. There was more freedom in the engine that you could run, meaning teams could choose between V-8, V-10 and V-12. Meanwhile, you also had in-race refueling, meaning riders had more flexibility in how much fuel they could carry each race. Of course, you have to consider that the fuel is heavy, which means the lap times are higher when running these loads. The teams had to make this difficult choice to optimize tire, fuel and engine performance. Believe it or not, Michael Schumacher won the 1995 season in a powerful Benetton chassis with an even more powerful V-10 engine.
As Formula 1 has evolved, sustainability has become a bigger part of the picture. The environmental push and government pressure meant that automakers could not justify spending hundreds of millions of dollars to compete in Formula 1 if the base engine had no use in road vehicles. Because of this, Formula 1 engine rules became more standardized, moving from V-12s to V-10s and eventually settling on V-8s. However, the environmental pressure still existed and we finally reached our first wave of electrification. This is where the trend was set for what was to come in terms of electrification and sustainability.
KERS and the first wave of electrification
The first wave of electrification in Formula 1 came with the introduction of KERS or Kinetic Energy Recovery System. It was one of the first hybrid drivetrains introduced in a modern vehicle. Many of today’s concepts, such as regenerative braking, originated from this system in Formula 1. The current system was essentially a seven-second battery boost that Formula 1 drivers had access to during a lap. The system was connected to the two wheels at the rear, generating electricity when drivers pressed the brakes. This meant that less pressure was put on the brakes.
In other words, they could be smaller. It also meant that the braking technology could be significantly improved with modern electronics. However, for many people looking for the ultimate in durability, that still wasn’t enough and more changes still needed to be made to Formula 1.
Full hybrid systems and more durability
Before the hybrid system, Formula 1 teams used V-8 engines from Mercedes, Renault or Ferrari. However, only Ferrari had substantial use of V-8 engines. Mercedes was looking to switch to smaller engines because that’s what they had in their production vehicles. Renault was in the same seat, which meant that they could not further justify the development of their V-8 engine. The teams decided that the V-6 engines would be a perfect middle ground between the V-8 or a four-cylinder hybrid system. This V-6 engine again attracted Honda to the sport, as they had an application for an engine of this size in their road vehicles.
Teams also wanted to play with more complex hybrid regeneration systems, which meant introducing the MGU-H and MGU-K instead of the traditional kinetic energy harvesting system. The MGU-H recovers waste heat from the exhaust and transforms it into electricity which is stored in a battery. The MGU-K does the same but with the braking energy stored in the battery like the previous kinetic energy recovery system. The main difference is that this system has been extended to give power for about 33 seconds instead of seven. This system is a great test bed for advancing our machines towards more power density and sustainability. It even has an all-electric spinoff to further develop electric powertrains.
From Formula 1 to our road vehicles
Despite the challenges of electrification and sustainability, many of the technologies we use today in our road vehicles come from Formula 1. It is essential to see how Formula 1 will solve these design challenges, because these technologies will carry over to future road cars.
Formula E and full electrification
Formula E is the push towards the electrification of motor racing. It uses a single chassis supplier with teams designing their drive controls. Battery capacity has a maximum limit, and it is up to teams to work within those limits. The central view of Formula E is sustainability, as they understand the importance of tackling global issues like climate change while preserving the heart and soul of motor racing. Currently, the main objective of this sport is to optimize the use of energy within the constraints set out in the rules and regulations. This is because we have now reached a significant bottleneck in our path to electrification.
Batteries and the weak link
The bottleneck we have encountered is our ability to store electrical energy in portable devices. Battery technologies rely on chemistry that makes them insufficient for most users’ needs. While a battery is good enough for the average smartphone user, it’s not good enough for someone who needs a vehicle that can go 500 miles before refueling in just a few minutes. . Because of this reality, sustainability and electrification will only advance at the speed that our battery technology allows. Without this impressive battery technology, companies struggle to achieve specific sustainability goals. However, one solution the teams have found to improve things slightly is to work on electronic control of the electric motors. Instead of trying to fit more batteries into a smaller case, these companies focus on using battery power as efficiently as possible.
Optimization of energy consumption is essential
Optimizing energy use is the current key for anyone working on the push towards electrification. By focusing on complex electronic and software algorithms, you can achieve better performance with the same hardware. However, stakeholders and users must use design software that allows them to achieve these sustainability goals. This is where the push towards sustainability as a key driver of design software comes from.
How Cadence contributes to electrification and sustainability
Cadence understands that the best electronics are those that optimize for energy consumption while still being powerful enough for the end user. This is why electrification and sustainability are major considerations when building design software for businesses. Cadence will continue to focus on sustainability when considering how its end users will use its software. This means focusing on efficiency and maximizing power density. Find out how Cadence’s tools are helping companies achieve their sustainability goals today in our Corporate Social Responsibility Sustainability Report.
Steve Brown is Director of Marketing Communications at Cadence.