Deakin research could make KERS an option for standard road cars

25 June 2009

Kinetic energy storage systems (KERS) continue to be one of the hottest topics in Formula One motor racing this year and now researchers at Deakin University are working to develop KERS technology for standard road cars.

Project leader Dr Clive Ferguson said the potential benefits of KERS included improvements to vehicle efficiency and emissions.

"KERS is a way of harvesting and storing the energy generated when a vehicle brakes. This stored energy can be used by the vehicle, potentially improving its fuel efficiency and emissions. We also believe there is the potential to improve vehicle handling, so this will be part of our research as well," he explained.

The harvested energy can be stored in various ways, including electrically using batteries – the method mostly used in Formula One to date – or mechanically using a flywheel. Although there are technical issues with both approaches, Dr Ferguson believes mechanical storage has a number of potential advantages.

"Compared to battery storage, mechanical storage devices potentially provide significant savings in weight and space. They are also friendlier for the environment because they remove the need for highly toxic lithium-based batteries. Battery storage can also be damaged by electrical spikes due to emergency braking," he said.

Dr Ferguson said he believed a flywheel KERS had the potential to "significantly outperform batteries in hybrid vehicles in efficiency, green footprint, size and weight".

"Our aim at Deakin is to research, design, build and test a flywheel KERS that efficiently harvests regenerative braking energy for volume based production vehicle applications. We plan to independently identify the technical difficulties in developing an affordable mechanical KERS for both front and rear wheel drive production vehicles and identify cost effective solutions.

"I would like to think that our research may lead to KERS one day being available on standard production vehicles, may be as an optional extra," he said.

The Deakin KERS project has received initial funding from the Cooperative Research Centre for Advanced Automotive Technology (AutoCRC) and includes researchers from both the School of Engineering and the Centre for Material and Fibre Innovation, bringing together Deakin's expertise in mechanical engineering and carbon fibre research.

 

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