Race cars are always developing and changing. Newer models have many cool new features, always with the aim of a smooth drive and more speed. But these developments aren’t limited to taking the car out to the track. In fact, tracing the way race cars evolve can help us learn a lot about the future of the automotive industry. Many new features get tested out on race cars and if they work, companies look into their widespread use. Here are some developments in the race car industry is looking at that you might see sometime soon:
You know the scene in a high-speed race where the driver pulls off and lets the pit crew take over. Part of the big things they are charged with doing is changing the battery. Formula E cars, which electric racing cars are equipped with, do not last a full race. However, innovators are looking at developing lithium-ion racing packs that may change racing forever.
The current batteries run up to 28-kWh. But McLaren Applied Technologies, a company in the race car business, is looking at developing a new battery that would cap out at 54 kWh. This would allow the voltage of the battery to go as high as 800-1000 volts. The higher the battery voltage on the car, the more thin and light wiring can be used. This can lead to increased efficiency of cooling, using less heat, and faster recharging of batteries. Though it is being looked at for the racing industry, this is sure to make electric cars generally more effective if implemented.
Silicon-Carbide Power Inverters
The more electricity is used within a car, the more adaptive the surrounding technology must be. The switch to higher voltages within Formula E batteries means that direct current (DC) flows are not sufficient for carrying that sort of charge. Instead, alternating current (AC) flows must be considered instead. This is a process by which the motor converts power using power inverters so as not to overheat the vehicle. The mechanisms are able to change at a high speed. There are 2 terminals on the side coming from the battery and three on the side of the motor, allowing the semi conductors to switch nearly 40,000 times per second. This much speed is needed to keep up with the voltage coming out of the battery.
What has been changing is the use of silicon carbide in these semi conductors. These semiconductors are made at about 3000 degrees, which allows them many amps of power (around hundreds to be precise) at an efficiency rate of 95%. Plus since they are only .2 inches in diameter, they are very easy to fit in the car. At the moment, they are still rather pricey (to the tune of about $18,000). But since they are still developing, this will likely go down enough to use in regular cars at some point.
Michelin Pilot Sport EV2
The rule of thumb with tires is that the more grip the tire has, the more resistant the car becomes to speed, which makes it for a lot of gas wasted. That being said, tire grip is an essential part of car safety. So, car companies are always looking for tires that have sufficient grip but don’t take too much of a toll on fuel. Michelin has heard their calls and is coming to the rescue.
Their new model has a new grooved spec tire that increases the speed of a car taking corners but doesn’t add (and in fact reduces) resistance. They won’t explain their secrets but the Pilot 4S gives us hints as to what the Pilot Sport EV2 will look like. They have managed to 4S’ success by putting rubber in only the most necessary spots. Designers have also looked on how to distribute weight throughout the entire tire in order to stop the resistance from hitting one spot.
Hitoe Sensor Shirt
Collecting real time data on a car’s performance is a pivotal part of any race. Hitoe has developed technology that has made this even easier. The company is using Nano fibers, coated with conductive polymer, to make a loose material for shirts that can send electrical signals. This allows the driver to transmit data in real time, as the race is going on.
At Indy Car, a fireproof version of this has been tested as well (an unfortunate necessity in the racing world). Movement or sweat did not get in the way of the readings, allowing people to monitor the activation of the driver’s muscles the entire time. One day in the future, this technology may even be used to prevent accidents before they happen.
Turbulent Jet Ignition
In order to save fuel, designers have looked at Turbulent Jet Ignition, a process that takes additional energy from the fuel in a car, relying on a process of combustion to use it more efficiently. The safety controls include pressure sensors on the channels, which help the computer to bring down the turbo boost if the pressure gets past the ring’s sealing ability. Additionally, the rings can start sealing again once there is no more leakage, unlike a traditional head gasket, which is designed to fail and stop completely. These engines are not stable enough to use in regular cars, but it gives you an idea of where the designs may be headed.
Prodrive Head-Gasket-less Engine
Similarly, Prodrive (an English company) has been looking at cars that can use smart technology that triggers a reaction in the computer before a potential leak. If it could have the car lower boost and spark advance before an accident happen, the need for a head gasket becomes less pivotal to the car’s functioning. The idea is to focus on more preventative rather than reactive technology in cars so as to allow maximum fuel usage.
This is the electronic computing brain that is used to power all the equipment in the Formula 1, and probably the most important development to watch. Automakers are hoping to make it a more prevalent part of racing and the car industry generally. It decreases weight, takes up less space, and costs much less to reduce. The efficiency gained by this smart box controlling the engine, and the fact that it can handle the F1’s impressive machinery (1.6-liter turbo V6), makes it an attractive option in the future.
Though many of these developments are still in the prototypical stage, they present endless possibilities for the modern driver. Studying where the racing industry is going can give us a much better idea of creative solutions for the automotive industry.