Print 25 comment(s) - last by Samus.. on Mar 28 at 2:24 AM

Volvo testing a prototype of the KERS system right now

Some exotic race cars have been using a KERS system to store and then release power back to the driver in certain instances as a sort of “boost” function. KERS technology is now starting to come to the street and Volvo has a working prototype using the tech.
However, Volvo isn't using the tech just to improve performance; it is using the tech to improve fuel efficiency. According to the automaker, KERS can reduce fuel consumption as much as 25 percent. In addition to improving fuel economy, Volvo says that the KERS tech can also reduce production costs compared to traditional hybrid systems.

Prototype Volvo S60 with Flybrid KERS system

Volvo has test fitted what it calls a “Flybrid” KERS to the rear axle of a S60 to assist the gas engine that drives the front wheels of the car. It captures kinetic energy typically lost from braking and sends it to the flyweel. 150 watt hours of energy can be captured in only 8 seconds, and the energy can be stored for up to 30 minutes or used immediately.

The KERS system – which spins its flywheel at a maximum of 60,000 rpm in a true vacuum and can deliver 80hp -- can be used to knock 1.5 seconds off the car's 0-60 time or in an economy mode to reduce pollution.
The entire system only weighs about 130 pounds, which makes it much lighter than a traditional electric motor and NiMH/Li-ion battery packs used in hybrid vehicles. For example, the batteries alone used in Volvo's current hybrids weigh 660 pounds. 

Flybrid KERS (Kinetic Recovery System) 

The prototype KERS systems won’t reach production in its current form. A production version of the system will see a similar flywheel and transmission attached to a front wheel drive-based transmission. 

Sources: Autocar, Top Gear

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Interesting tech
By bah12 on 3/26/2014 10:43:51 AM , Rating: 1
I wonder how beefy the casing is, and what danger it poses in an accident. One would assume the flywheel is pretty hefty, and spinning at 60,000 rpm means that is a boat load of kinetic energy that would just love to bust out and wreak some havoc. I'd love to see a video of them testing this to it's breaking point, that should make for a big boom.

RE: Interesting tech
By BarryGoffe on 3/26/2014 12:16:33 PM , Rating: 3
Porsche raced these in their 911RSR racecar for a number of years with no issues. Also, these have been used in Formula 1 for a number of years - and have seen some pretty extreme shunts without a single incident. This is pretty well proven out technology at this point. It hasn't seen much use on the road because the system only offers a few seconds of additional grunt as opposed to battery-based systems. Comparing the weights of these systems is a bit of an apples to oranges comparison. The relative energy storage of these systems is as dissimilar as their weights. For lots of stop-and-go driving around town, however, the flywheel based system is probably pretty well suited.

RE: Interesting tech
By therealnickdanger on 3/26/2014 2:19:48 PM , Rating: 2
They've seen many uses over the years:

RE: Interesting tech
By Alexvrb on 3/26/2014 11:16:31 PM , Rating: 3
I hate it when people bring up racing when discussing reliability in the context of pedestrian vehicles. Racing solutions don't compare to long-term ownership of a stock vehicle. You can make an engine scream and deem it "race reliable" because you only have to rebuild it every so often. There's a reason they sleeve race engines. But the typical well-maintained stock engine should have no problem going over 200K without a rebuild. KERS is no different. Show me a car with a KERS system that has only undergone basic maintenance with 200K miles on it. If you want to be an early adopter, good for you - early adopters of certain unreliable DCTs were very valuable guinea pigs.

Other than that, I agree with you. If it can be made bulletproof I would take this over a conventional gas, gas with start-stop only, and the most basic mild hybrids. But it doesn't compare to a modern full hybrid or PHEV, for multiple reasons.

RE: Interesting tech
By BZDTemp on 3/27/2014 7:27:15 AM , Rating: 2
But it doesn't compare to a modern full hybrid or PHEV, for multiple reasons.

That is some statements you're making. I'd be interested in learning what it is you're thinking of with regards to those multiple reasons.

As for comparing racing to normal life then it is not as clean cut as you make it out to be. Th high stress world of racing does not cover everything, but it is a good way to stress test new tech and that includes testing wear factors.

RE: Interesting tech
By PaFromFL on 3/27/2014 8:40:00 AM , Rating: 2
I wonder how they handle the angular momentum constraint. Over 200k miles, pitch, roll, and yaw might take a toll on bearings.

RE: Interesting tech
By wushuktl on 3/27/2014 7:23:20 AM , Rating: 2
While the regulations allowed it, none of the teams in Formula 1 actually used the flywheel method, they all ended up going with a battery. You can only assume that they felt it was the better solution and compromise of size, weight, eventual power output, quickness in development, etc. The Williams team even developed a flywheel system and then made collaborations with some car manufacturers to put it in real cars but still continued to go with the battery in the races. Even though it sounds good on paper, it makes me think there must be something that is not so good about it.

RE: Interesting tech
By Samus on 3/28/2014 2:24:20 AM , Rating: 2
Flywheel storage is incredibly safe. It's physically impossible for the shaft to just "give out" sending the discs flying. The failure is slow and predictable, always at the bearings. As the bearings wear, the flywheel(s) lack rotational efficiency (they spin slower) and when the bearings finally give out, they don't spin at all.

Most modern flywheel storage systems have liquid/oil cooled bearings for added reliability. Typically the flywheels drive the pump, too, so as the mass spins faster, cooling is increased.

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