High-Tech Tires, From Pit Lane to Your Garage

KERS. The kinetic energy recovery system might be the ultimate example of racing’s stop and go. It was introduced for the Formula One 2009 season. With KERS, kinetic energy (that energy used to brake) is stored in a battery and then reused to give a boost of power to an engine. Ferrari has shown the system in a concept road car, but the cost will have to drop significantly before it becomes a mainstream product.

Turbocharging. Turbos took off in racing thanks in part to Renault, which used compressor-driving power in Formula One in the ’70s. Turbochargers give smaller engines higher performance, allowing carmakers to reduce engine cylinder size and increase fuel efficiencies.

Carbon fiber. The use of this material, now found in mainstream products from BMW, Ferrari and others, was spurred by its adoption in Formula One and aerospace. The substance — first used by Thomas Edison — is much stronger than aluminum, and lighter. Some carmakers, like Cadillac, use it for decorative trim, but its real value is saving weight and adding strength to a vehicle’s hood, roof and other exterior bits.

At the end of the day, winning a race is one thing; putting that technology to work in road cars — and selling lots of those cars — is quite another.

“I can tell you that companies like Mercedes, Renault, they’re not in Formula One just because they love the sport,” said Mario Andretti, who stopped to chat while walking the pit lane at the recent Formula One race in Austin, Texas. Mr. Andretti won the 1978 Formula One World Championship, as well as four IndyCar titles, including the Indianapolis 500.

“A lot of development goes on here, because of the vigorous testing being done,” Mr. Andretti added. “And there’s a sense of urgency to all of this work. Formula One is at the leading edge of technology, that’s its DNA, and that’s why the manufacturers spend the money that they do to be involved.”

Source: High-Tech Tires, From Pit Lane to Your Garage

By By Stephen Williams

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