Automobile

From cul-de-sacs to racetracks: Hybrid-car tech heads to Indy

Officials have not released much technical information on the hybrid system; that’s coming this year.

IndyCar engineers — with input from race teams, Honda and Chevrolet — are still working on the details of the layout of the hybrid system. “There are very open channels of communication with IndyCar management, from the top of the organization on down, and they are constantly looking for our feedback,” said Mike Shank, co-owner of Meyer Shank Racing.

“Everything has to be considered, and it is a big balancing act for IndyCar to make good decisions for manufacturers, fans, teams and drivers. They also have to keep a big eye on what the racing product looks like and how it’s being delivered to the fans,” he added.

The electric motor is expected to be sandwiched between the engine and the transmission. But the rest of the integration has engineers working overtime. Instead of a battery pack, for instance, it could use supercapacitors, which are smaller and lighter and designed to release a massive amount of electrical power quickly.

Replacing the turbocharger as the source of extra push-to-pass power with an electric motor presents race car engineers with a major headache: adding weight. Some estimates peg the weight of the electric motor and batteries at about 100 pounds. Depending on the race circuit, an IndyCar weighs 1,655 to 1,700 pounds, so adding 100 pounds is a big deal. Other issues include figuring out where to place the batteries in the car so that they run cool, not upsetting the car’s handling and not detracting from its crashworthiness.

Here’s another: Running an IndyCar with the new hybrid system will make it difficult for drivers to replenish their batteries after using push to pass — the cars don’t brake often on oval tracks.

No cars have yet been built that use the new hybrid push-to-pass system, but early testing is underway. In late March, two Honda and two Chevrolet IndyCars that use the older turbo-boosted push-to-pass system ran at the Brickyard’s 2.5-mile, four-turn oval to simulate how drivers would use it on this type of racetrack — the first of several scheduled tests.

“From an oval perspective, it’s never been done, and we’re excited for what’s coming,” Jay Frye, IndyCar president, told Racer.com.

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