The kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) is a technology that captures the kinetic energy of a moving vehicle that would otherwise be lost as heat during braking, and converts it into electrical energy that can be stored and later used to assist in propelling the vehicle. It is a technology that has been used in Formula 1 racing for a number of years and has been gaining popularity in other forms of motorsports as well as in road cars.
From a technical perspective, the KERS is an interesting technology that has the potential to improve the efﬁciency of vehicles and reduce their environmental impact and has also made the sport more exciting by increasing the level of competition on the track. It can help reduce fuel consumption and emissions, by providing an additional source of power to the vehicle. It shows how energy can be recovered and reused in a closed-loop system which is important for sustainable development. Additionally, the development and use of KERS in Formula One has also helped to drive the development of similar technologies in other industries, such as in the automotive and aerospace sectors.
There are principally two types of system – battery (electrical) and ﬂywheel (mechanical), although F1 teams have so far all opted for the battery system. Electrical systems use a motor-generator incorporated in the car’s transmission which converts mechanical energy into electrical energy and vice versa. Once the energy has been harnessed, it is stored in a battery and released when required.
Mechanical systems capture braking energy and use it to turn a small ﬂywheel which can spin at up to 80,000 rpm. When extra power is required, the ﬂywheel is connected to the car’s rear wheels. In contrast to an electrical KERS, the mechanical energy doesn’t change state and is, therefore, more efﬁcient.
There is one other option available – hydraulic KERS, where braking energy is used to accumulate hydraulic pressure which is then sent to the wheels when required.
Even this cool ‘Boost’ button in real life has some challenges. The batteries used in KERS systems are typically large and heavy, which can affect the car’s overall performance and handling, but that can be tackled by using a ﬂywheel mechanism instead of a super capacitor or battery. Another challenge has been the reliability of the KERS systems. The technology is still relatively new and F1 teams have had to spend a lot of time and money developing and testing the systems to ensure that they are reliable and safe to use.