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Go Figure

FEATURE BY MAX NOBLE
03/04/2017

Another week in Formula One, and faster than Usain Bolt sprinting for his next 'Sports Person of the Decade Award', we have the FIA considering new engine types, and the manufacturers once more banging on about "Road Relevance".

Well really.

At a typical circuit the cars will pit for fresh tyres somewhere around twenty laps from the start. That will be, depending on the circuit, a distance of around 100Km (that's 62.5 miles in old money). Any Pitpass readers fancy road tyres that do that? I'd be up for three to four sets per week if my tyres lasted that sort of distance.

The manufacturer claims my car can pull over 0.9g laterally on a skid pad. Do any of us need to be pulling 4.0g plus on the inside lane of a major roundabout in rush hour? The Latte splash alone would require emergency clean-up!

And carbon ceramic brakes at F1 level? Again these beasts are built for around 300 Km of peak performance and not a centimetre more! So when I go for that third tyre change before the weekend, I need to throw in new brake disks and pads. No cost impact there then!

Let's face it, as Colin Chapman so flawlessly focussed, a race car that does not fall apart as it crosses the finish line is over-weight and over-engineered. A road car that does not give around ten years of reasonably trouble free motoring is a dud. Two hours compared to ten years. Sounds like very different engineering solutions for different outcomes to me.

One area I would love to see carried over to road cars is the safety cell. One only has to look at Alonso walking away, shaken, but otherwise unhurt, from his massive 2016 Melbourne shunt to be all for that level of survival cell in road cars. Many people would be alive today if our roads cars offered that level of protection.

Track design is remarkable for keeping nasty hard stuff away from the 300kph missiles. If only our road engineers that keep placing light poles, junction boxes, and "Middlethorpe Welcomes Careful Drivers" signs at the outside apex of corners such that when Miss Physics catches us not paying due respect we slide directly into said immovable object, sometimes with tragic outcomes. We could learn from track design here for safer roads.

Then driver behaviour. When Alfonso-the-not-so-great elects to pull through a stop sign 25cm in front of on rushing traffic, or change lanes in the wet using the handbrake (or whatever madness it is that day) it is a driver issue, not a road rule issue. Everyone realising sharing public roads is a team game would be most beneficial. One need look no further than the clean over takes between Verstappen, Ricciardo, Lewis, and Nico, that cause the drivers to then wax lyrical about respect for one another to see how respect for other drivers should play out... one then need look no further than the worst moments between Lewis and Nico to see what happens when it all breaks down. So there is a transfer to the road by the race drivers leading by example. I love the current Heineken advert showing Sir Jackie Stewart respectfully declining an offered cold beer because "...I'm still driving". Respect all around for a masterful ad concept.

And then, to finally focus on our flavour of the moment, once more. Power units.

I'll get right to it. Hybrids are a marketing dead-end dreamt up by sales executives desperate to prove their green credentials to a needy public. We demanded we start saving the planet right now! So the marketing people asked engineering what they could provide, not in a decade, but right now!

And hello Toyota Prius. The laughing stopped at the other manufacturers when they saw the halo effect Toyota got for slapping "Hybrid" stickers on their range and ringing up the cash registers. Fill your cars with smaller (cheaper) engines, plus a pile of rare metals that are a massive environmental impact to mine, refine, deliver, and then reuse/dispose, market accordingly and pocket the profits.

Dead end.

Fully electric is being hustled into the main stream mainly by Elon Musk. A man that owes Big Oil nothing. As the public educate themselves on generating real environmental benefits the demand for long life, deep cycle, fast charging fully electric vehicles will rocket.

Like the Zeppelin, fuel cell and hydrogen, or similar awkward to handle fuels, are a fascinating dead end too. Complex to handle, dangerous in the wrong conditions, in need of refinement and storage. They only benefit Big Oil who will shift to selling us the new black gold.

Do not underestimate the global size of this battle. If fully electric vehicles, with their horizontal surfaces covered in super-performing flexible solar cells providing on the go, and parked, automatic charging win the day the oil companies, and those nations dependant on their massive incomes, will cease to be relevant in the blink of an eye. We are not talking a 5% drop in market share. We are talking the wipe out of a major industrial sector the like of which the globe has not seen since the English War Horse vanished in a generation.

Electric cars of an affordable, pleasure to drive, easy to run nature with self-charging capabilities that effectively deliver "unlimited" range for the twenty year life of their solar cells are going to be life changing across the world within very few years. At the top of the market they already exist, and during 2018 most main stream manufacturers intend to release mass market all electric vehicles.

Let's take one example. Jaguar has just confirmed it will release the iPace late in 2018. This is a pleasant looking mid-size car with more in common with the F-Pace SUV than the F-Type sports coupe. Yet it promises this electric beast will deliver 700Nm of torque, 294 Kw of power, and a 0-100 kph time around 4.0 seconds.

Electric motors differ from internal combustion engines not just in their make-up and physics of operation but their power delivery too. A traditional engine will deliver peak power around maximum rpm, and be combined with a gearbox such that changing gear will drop you from peak power into the middle of peak torque delivery, thus ensuring maximal continued acceleration.

By contrast an electric motor delivers maximum torque when stalled, that is when the vehicle is about to launch. So while drivability might be an issue, igniting toward the horizon for a stand still is a major party trick for electric motors.

So, comparing internal combustion beasts to the Jaguar five seater that Soccer Mum can drive. A 2016 Ferrari 488 can manage to launch you, one friend, plus two tooth brushes and one credit card 0-100kph in 3.0 seconds while costing around six times the likely cost of the Jaguar. A 2016 Ferrari FF, which can just about take four adults, performs 0-100Kph in around 4.0 seconds. That would be the same as the Jaguar.

If we cast our minds all the way back to the last century, a 1998 Ferrari F355 takes a snooze worthy 5.0 seconds to crawl to 100 kph.

Wander further back down Super Car memory lane, and we find a 1994 Porsche 911 Carrera C2 with a factory claimed time around 5.5 seconds for 100 kph. And remember in their day these were considered crushingly fast cars!

Send our iPace driving soccer mum back 25 years and she is going to comfortably blitz super cars at the lights, while getting Tarquin to kick-off on time!

I'm not saying that an electric SUV is about to offer more delights than a Lotus Elise or Mazda MX-5 on a sweeping, deserted back road, but the general public want impressive figures, for running costs, fuel, and acceleration, which takes minimal skill to employ, and trumpets your awesomeness to all those left behind next time the lights go green.

Hybrids are a brief marketing distraction on the relentless path to an ever improving understanding and partnership with the more and more complex facets of Miss Physics. She loves to power the human body with the most modest of electrical charges. She loves the fizz and bang of the most massive electro magnetic pulses when stars die. She binds the very fabric of the universe together with atomic bonds dependant on the aptly named electron.

Just as driverless cars will eventually arrive in the name of safety, so fully electric cars will arrive because it is what Miss Physics politely recommends as the optimal solution, and it is what the public wants. And as The Jam told us many years ago, what the public wants the public gets, so the oil is going to stay underground.

Max Noble.

Learn more about Max and check out his previous features, here

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by airman1, 17/04/2017 5:26

"Choosing the next engine formula for the F1 is really not about technology, but rather about the philosophy, about how different stakeholders see their place in the world. The only ones that really have no say in the matter are fans. I agree with Max, but only in the long run will full electric prevail over the hybrids. In a short to medium, a hybrid will reign supreme, especially if and when we see first viable diesel hybrids, and when hybrid concept ceases to be about having more power, but rather more economy, cease to be a marketing trick, and becomes a viable power-train option, eventually completely replacing a standard combustion engine as such."

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2. Posted by Max Noble, 16/04/2017 0:54

"@cricketpo - a robust comment I must say! I agree the story of the Nissan Leaf is a sad one. It clearly shows the technology is still a few years off the pace. That's why it matters for the planet that the Tesla Model 3 is a success.

Also agree train technology is a great example of intelligent hybrid design.

Still believe soccer mums of the world will be all electric sooner rather than later!

"

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3. Posted by Schnauzers, 14/04/2017 17:55

"CURRENT F1 ENGINE EFFICIENCY TECHNOLOGY IS HUGELY DEPENDENT ON BATTERIES. THOSE THEY USE AREN'T ANYTHING LIKE THOSE WE USE IN OUR ROAD CARS. THEY COST A FORTUNE - I WAS TOLD AROUND £400,000 A SET A FEW YEARS AGO (F1 PERSONNEL READERS PLEASE ADVISE CURRENT LEVELS). THEY USED TO LOOSE AROUND 10% EFFICIENCY EVERY PRACTICE SESSION, SO WOULD INVARIABLY BE REPLACED FOR THE RACE (BY THOSE FEW TEAMS THAT COULD AFFORD IT). AND THE NATURE OF THEIR CONTENTS MADE THEM IMPOSSIBLE TO RECYCLE."

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4. Posted by cricketpo, 14/04/2017 14:21

"First off the disappointing news is that none of this technology is going to really take off until oil becomes a truly rare commodity. The sad news is that to collect the oil we use today Big Oil, as you describe it, has had to invest billions of dollars up to 10 years ago. The investors now require a return on that investment so the oil is coming up and will continue to do so. Only half the oil raised goes into motor cars so there are so many useful things that oil is used for.

I sternly disagree that hybrid cars are a marketing distraction and would actually state that it is battery power that is the distraction. Batteries are no where near providing anything useful in terms of locomotion. My neighbour owns a Nissan Leaf and recently attempted a north south journey in the UK. Every 80 miles they required an hour to recharge the batteries, so not only where they limited to just over 60miles an hour they had to stop 4 times to complete a 350 mile journey so a 6 hour trip became an 11 hour trip with almost half the journey time being completed at a complete standstill. As they were rolling up to their destination the owners of a Prius had not only arrived but ate a meal in a nice restaurant and watched the complete rendition of Wagner's Ring Cycle with time for a quick snifter in the local on the way home. Now whose car is a marketing dead end? The fact is battery technology is not up to the job and may never make it. However a hybrid WORKS. The advantage of a hybrid is that the non electrical power unit could be of any other fuel to support the pathetic battery. In fact a flywheel (as in the Williams design) would in fact be more useful and have greener credentials than a filthy chemical battery. And these systems work. Even a train in the UK operates in this way. Finally hybrids can utilise the torque characteristics of an electric motor already. Rail locomotives have been designed in this way for many years. It is more effective to use the diesel power as a power source to generate electricity for the efficient electric motors. Direct drive is so last century.

Physics suggests that hybrids are a working solution not a pipe dream with as much likelihood of succeeding as time travel for a soccer mum.

The need for road relevance in F1 or even in motorsport in general is that these manufacturers have to justify the inordinate amounts of money they spend on racing and the only comeback they can have is something that can be applied to a their core business. If we don't want road relevance in our racing we may have to wave goodbye to manufacturing interest. I myself would not weep at the loss of a Ferrari, Renault or Mercedes. I would probably be more upset at the loss of teams like Sauber or Williams. Because these teams live to race. F1 IS their core business.

I think, though that the so called desire by the author for impressive figures is a personal choice and perhaps one many of the readers of this website (myself included) aspire to however for soccer mums everywhere the number of other soccer mums they can load into it may be more interesting than how they leave their fellow soccer mums behind at the lights and what colour haze they see it through"

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5. Posted by twillis, 14/04/2017 3:47

"Frankly I cannot figure out for the life of me why Pirelli wants to be involved with F1. When I buy a tire for my road car I want to buy a tire that's going to last for 10's of thousands of kilometres. When I see a Pirelli logo in F1 I just get, perhaps subconsciously, a message that Pirelli tires are unreliable and may not last long."

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6. Posted by Max Noble, 08/04/2017 11:53

"@Spindoctor - Another great comment, my thanks for reading and thinking!
You raise excellent points, especially about generation and "shifting" the emissions issue. I agree we need scalable green solutions. A combination of solar, thermal, hydro, wave, and in the right circumstances, nuclear.

We then the energy density of batteries to double (at least) and the problem is all solved!

As Honda has recently found to it's great cost moving from a Mono-cylinder test system to the full size, installed system, when you scale up and combine sub-systems into a system-of-systems it can all go pear-shaped very fast.

I will be fascinated to see if Big Oil leans on the manufacturers enough that hybrids hang on for far longer than they should.

Mother Earth will be rooting for Tesla to survive and grow so we can all continue to enjoy sports, entertainment, and reading PitPass with lungs filled with sweet fresh air!

"

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7. Posted by Spindoctor, 07/04/2017 23:30

"Good clean\green fun! I am 100% bought in to your vision, or at least parts of it and lots more on top!

The big problem with Electricity has always been that its moderately hard to make and very hard to store. This isn't a huge problem in static applications, but....
Batteries have been improving in capacity & performance incrementally. Like cures for Alzheimer's or Cancer the really good stuff like Fusion Power and including Super Capacitors seems always to be "about 5 years away". Until issues of relatively low energy-density (compared to hydrocarbons) & slow refuel\charge-rates are resolved the pure EV remains largely a town car.

The other complaint from the electro-Luddites\refuseniks is that all that luvverly 'clean' leccy has to be generated: shifting, not eliminating pollution. This complaint is more amenable to resolution than the problems of slow battery development.
Essays have been penned on how to overcome this, but this is an F1 website, so I'll summarise.
Problems of pollution can be much-reduced by 'green' generation, whose often sporadic delivery can be smoothed using a 'Smart Grid', allied to both localised and centralised 'buffer' stores. Batteries in EVs can contribute to these buffers. All this will take billions of investment, but would create huge numbers of jobs & growth. Lets hope rationality beats vested interests.

Back in F1 land 'relevance' is an awful thought. Just look at our (UK) Universities whose Academic Research is now mired in Relevance to Commercial exploitation, lots of trees are felled, little wood spotted....
Finally let's keep SOME advanced powertrain technology. It doesn't sound nice, but it's interesting!

"

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8. Posted by Willie, 04/04/2017 2:52

"LOL!
(But I do love my new Prius.)"

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9. Posted by Max Noble, 04/04/2017 0:35

"@Uffen - I agree the EV Nirvana I outline in the article is "...not quite there yet." A 2015 Telsa Model S 85 Auto, sells second hand here in Australia for around $115,000. It has a 500Km range, a 225 kph top speed and can cover 0-100kph in 5.6 seconds. It can carry five adults, and has a total load space of 1795L.

You get that on the road for around $50,000 and you've got a winner. Which is what Tesla, Jaguar, and the rest of the merry auto folk will start delivering from the end of this year.

Granted the Solar cells are off the mark right now. We have flexible ones, ones that work on cloudy days, and we have Tesla about to market house roof tiles that are solar cells (small and with colours other than Moon Rocket Silver). But given the emerging (massive) market the desire to solve all these issues soon is immense.

Don't forget that the energy recovery aspect of road cars actually lags that in F1. Kinetic recovery from coasting, and braking are still quite basic in road cars. Williams had a fly-wheel based system that I felt had promise a few years back, but I've heard nothing of it in recent times.

The future is coming! "

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10. Posted by Uffen, 03/04/2017 21:12

"Nice column, Max, but where is this EV that has a solar cell and offers unlimited range. Top of which market?
What about driving at night? At 30°C below zero? The oil will stay underground but that won't happen for a good long while yet.

I read that a battery is being developed that uses silicon and offers 3x the power density of Li-Ion and avoids the toxic soup of Li-Ion. Timing TBD. "

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