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Freescale Semiconductor KERS Experience Assists in the Race for Better Hybrid Electric Passenger Car Technology

An electronic control system for Formula One cars that Freescale Semiconductor is developing in collaboration with McLaren Electronic Systems puts Freescale in the forefront of hybrid electric vehicle technology development.

“Racing improves the breed,” is a saying first applied to horses.  It was carried over to automobiles, but in recent years it has hardly seemed to apply.  Open wheel racing cars have had little or no resemblance to passenger cars and even “stock” cars have been little more than racing chassis with lightweight bodies wrapped around them.  In 2009, however, Formula One cars will add a system that really may improve passenger cars.

In 2009 Formula One rules will allow cars to use a KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System), which will use regenerative braking to store mechanical energy in a flywheel or electrical energy in a battery or supercapacitor.  The driver can press a button on the steering wheel to use the stored energy to add a 60kW (80.5 horsepower) burst of power for passing or defending his position.  So far, most of the teams have chosen the electrical option, using a battery and an electric motor/generator.

The Formula One KERS systems are very similar to passenger car parallel hybrid electric systems except that the conditions are much more demanding.  In 2009 Formula One engines will develop nearly 800 horsepower at 18,000 RPM.  The gasoline engine in a typical small hybrid electric passenger car develops about 150 horsepower at 6,000 RPM or less, and the hybrid electric motor develops about 80 to 160 horsepower.  Increasing the difference is the fact that Formula One cars run at or near their peak horsepower and RPM most of the time, while passenger cars are usually running at much less than their peak horsepower and RPM.  In addition, Formula One cars are subject to extremes of heat and vibration.  They are an ideal test lab for passenger car systems.

McLaren has extensive experience in racing car electronics design and development.  Freescale will bring to the collaboration its motor control, microcontroller and power system design expertise.  A goal is to significantly increase efficiency over existing and emerging KERS technologies.

Semico Spin

The feedback from racing applications is very quick.  The car goes faster or it does not.  It wins races or it does not.  The design cycle is measured in months for Formula One cars, not in years as for passenger cars.  KERS control and monitoring electronics are so similar to hybrid electric passenger car systems that the Formula One experience should help Freescale lead the way in developing lighter, more efficient and less expensive systems for passenger cars.

 Spin, Spin, Spin

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