When it comes to auto racing, hybrid technology isn't just about cutting emissions and fuel consumption.
New hybrid powertrains planned for Indy racers are expected not only to boost horsepower, but also to make racing safer by diminishing or eliminating stalls on the track, which now require a safety crew to respond to restart the car.
IndyCar announced last week that it will follow Formula 1's move to hybrid power for its standard powertrains starting in 2022. Engines will still come from Honda or Chevrolet, and will follow a new formula as well, though regulations are still expected to favor some form of twin-turbo V-6 as the current specs do. The current 2.2-liter V-6s from Honda and Chevrolet churn out 500 to 700 horsepower. Adding an electric motor and batteries to that formula is expected to boost power to around 900 hp.
Honda-powered IndyCar at Mid-Ohio, July 2019 (Source: IndyCar)
The extra horsepower should lead to quicker acceleration to potentially allow more passing during races, IndyCar said in a release, and drivers will have more time to use the "push-to-pass" system that will take full advantage of the extra electric power. The parallel-hybrid system will also boost fuel economy and potentially range by recuperating braking energy, helping to save fuel in the races.
Perhaps even better for drivers, the electric motor will give them the ability to restart their cars from the cockpit. It will end the historic Indy tradition of using external starter motors brought out by pit crews after a stall and at the beginning of races. That should also reduce the duration of no-passing yellow-flag periods during races, IndyCar said.
Indy plans to use a standard hybrid system sourced from a single supplier across all teams, whether they use a Chevrolet or Honda engine. The racing league did not announce specifics of the hybrid system beyond that it would be a parallel system capable of providing power directly, and that it will consist of "a multi-phase motor, inverter and electric storage device that will create energy recovery from the car's braking system."
That leaves open the possibility that the storage system might include flywheels rather than batteries, though taking a lead from all-electric Formula E and using batteries seem like the more likely choice.
Formula 1 has been using its KERS hybrid system since 2009.