I can’t tell you who’s going to win the 2022 IndyCar championship. I can’t tell you which team they’ll be driving for. But I can tell you that they’ll do it with hybrid power. On Thursday morning, IndyCar together with Honda and Chevrolet (who supply the sport with engines) announced that the next iteration of its race car will boast a hybrid system to go with new turbocharged V6 engines.
The series is aiming for a combined output of around 900hp (670kW) for the next-generation open-wheel cars, with an electric motor-generator unit contributing about 50hp (37kW) to the party.
“It’s an exciting time for IndyCar with the forthcoming evolution of the cars and innovations like the hybrid powertrain being incorporated into the new engine,” IndyCar President Jay Frye said. “As we move toward the future, we will remain true to our racing roots of being fast, loud and authentic, and simultaneously have the ability to add hybrid technology that is an important element for the series and our engine manufacturers.”
IndyCar says this will consist of a multiphase motor-generator unit, an inverter, and an electrical storage system. A similar move is already in store for the next generation of IMSA prototypes, which will also be introduced in 2022. However, unlike in Formula 1 or the World Endurance Championship, every team will use the same components to help control costs in these instances. This does somewhat undermine arguments about technology transfer and road-relevance, although that’s not really the preserve of open-wheel racing in the first place.
As a result of the hybrid decision, IndyCar is going to postpone by a year the introduction of new engines, originally scheduled for 2021. These will grow slightly in capacity, from the 2.2L turbocharged V6es used now to a 2.4L turbo V6. These are expected to make 800hp normally, with an additional 50hp “push-to-pass” system. IndyCar says that the boost of electric power will also be integrated into push-to-pass, and we believe that the system will feed power and torque to the rear wheels, as with Formula 1.
Not for ovals?
In announcing the hybrid initiative, the series’ press release explicitly mentions just street circuits and road courses; there’s no mention of ovals in general or the Indianapolis 500 in particular.
The problem with a hybrid system that regenerates kinetic energy under braking is that it doesn’t work if there is no braking. And these days the ovals that IndyCar uses are mostly flat-out the entire lap—at best a driver might have to lift the throttle. (It’s a problem that NASCAR—with a far higher concentration of oval races in its calendar—is also grappling with in its own deliberation process regarding the introduction of hybrids.)
An idea suggested by veteran racing journalist Marshall Pruett would be the introduction of an energy recovery system fitted to the engine’s turbocharger, similar to the ERS-H systems used in F1 or by the Porsche 919 Hybrid. Those turbo-based hybrid systems are far more complex (read: expensive), though. An alternative idea for ovals could be to just recover energy when decelerating into the pit lane, with drivers then using that energy when exiting the pits again.
There will be other benefits to a hybrid IndyCar. For instance, the cars won’t need remote starters any longer, which should cut out an awful lot of caution periods during races. Currently, if a car stalls following a spin or some other incident on track, safety workers have to get it going again, which means neutralizing the race under a safety car for several laps.
You need to login to view and post FB Comments!