One of the big questions here is whether this sort of "mechanical battery" could have any application in a regular production car? It seems like a stretch, despite the fact that a KERS system is much lighter and less complex than a battery pack. But it looks like Porsche's 911 GT3 R Hybrid may have a real world benefit after all, albeit an expensive one. Porsche has announced that it will build the 918 Spyder Hybrid concept that debuted at this year's Geneva Motor Show and it will have a KERS-type system. The 918 Spyder would be powered by a 500-hp V8 with the electric motors kicking in as much as an extra 200 hp. It all adds up to a car that could get 78 miles per gallon and get from 0-60 in about 3 seconds, if you believe Porsche's pr team. But with a projected price as high as $600,000, it will be hard to really call this a "real world" technology transfer.
Although Porsche is using KERS technology, it wasn't the originally developed by the German carmaker. For the 2009 Forumla 1 racing season, the governing body, FIA, gave race teams the option of implementing a hybrid system in their cars. The rules were specific, stating that regenerative energy must be captured from the rear axle and limiting energy storage, with each F1 team having the option of using an electrical or mechanical hybrid system. The Williams team opted for a mechanical hybrid system, developing KERS as an alternative to using a battery. Of the many hybrid systems that were developed, only the Williams system really worked, although both Ferrari and McLaren made a serious effort as well. On the whole, the F1 hybrid technology was so costly and unreliable that all F1 teams dropped it by the end of the 2009 season, and it is not being used for 2010.
It used to be that race cars had a meaningful technology link with passenger cars. Some innovations like overhead cams, independent rear suspension and seatbelts were developed and tested on race cars. Today, racing is all but irrelevant to street cars and the only real connection has to do with image and logos, which is just another way of saying there's not much actual technology transfer at all. While F1 team owners admit racing should become greener, at this point the cars that compete in the pinnacle of motor sports technology are actually playing catch up to everyday passenger cars. Hybrids like the Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Volt and Honda Insight have made the idea of recapturing lost energy, storing it, and using electric motors to boost power and reduce fuel consumption almost commonplace.
Watch Bradley fall in love with the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid at the Petit Le Mans in TRANSLOGIC 7.3: