F1’s Hybrid Tech Gives City Bus 20% More MPG

A new flywheel KERS system similar to those developed by Williams’ Formula 1 team and used in the dominant Porsche/Audi endurance race teams is making its way to city buses – and it could mean a 20% improvement in fuel economy!

In April of this year, Williams sold the technology (and the team that developed it) to British automotive and aerospace conglomerate GKN. In the time since, the copmany has grown to a 55-man operation taht’s working to get the Williams/GKN Hybrid Power system onto the mass market, so that English bus drivers can enjoy the added performance and efficiency that top-flight racing drivers have been enjoying for years.

What makes the flywheel hybrid system different from the systems used in the Prius, for example, is that it works completely without a battery. When the driver hits the brakes, a traction motor on the axle transfers the momentum of the vehicle to the flywheel, making it spin. The spinning flywheel then generates electricity while slowing the vehicle, augmenting the performance of the brakes and reducing wear. The flywheel operates in a vacuum to reduce friction, and can spin up to 36,000RPM. Once the driver gets on the gas, the system applies the momentum built up in the rapidly spinning flywheel to send as much as 120 kilowatts back the axles, helping acceleration and reducing the load demands on the internal combustion engine.

According to the video, above, GKN foresees the technology finding use in a variety of industrial applications, from elevators and commuter trains to (obviously) city buses. We’ll keep you posted on their progress in the weeks and months to come.


GKN Hybrid Power Gyrodrive – Flywheel Hybrid

flywheel hybrid mechanism

Source | Images: GKN, via Wired.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.