Formula 1 cars have been at the forefront of automotive technology for decades. Modern Formula 1 racers can be proud of their achievements. These cars are equipped with tons of technology to make them more efficient and faster. The ERS (energy recovery system) is a type of hybrid technology.
This article will cover the two types of ERS currently found in Formula 1 cars. We’ll also explain in detail how and why they work.
Since 2009, ERS has been used in Formula 1 in one way or another. Although all ERS has the same basic concept, they allow cars to use energy sources that are otherwise wasted. However, their design has evolved.
KERS (kinetic Energy Recovery System) was the first ERS introduced to Formula 1. KERS utilized either a flywheel (or a battery) to store the car’s kinetic energy during braking and supplement the engine’s power when necessary.
Formula 1 cars now use two different ERS. MGU-H extracts thermal energy from the car’s exhaust, and MGU-K is an evolution of the original KERS.
Let’s now look at both these systems and discuss what they do and how it works.
The MGU-H, or motor generator unit-heat, is one of two ERS found in Formula 1 cars. The MGU-H is used in conjunction with the turbocharger. It can be used as a generator or a motor, depending on the situation.
To better understand the MGU-H, you should know some basics about turbochargers. A turbocharger comprises two main components: a turbine and a compressor. A shaft connects them.
Turbo’s turbine is connected to its exhaust while the compressor is connected to the intake. The turbine spins when exhaust gasses pass through it. The spinning turbine then spins the compressor. It takes in air and compresses it before it sends it down the intake.
The engine can burn more fuel by having more air. It increases its power. Turbocharging is also more efficient than naturally aspirated engines because it allows for complete combustion.
The MGU-H is now attached. The MGU-H connects to the turbocharger. It is located between the turbine, compressor, and turbine. The MGU-H, like the turbocharger, is also powered using the exhaust gas from the car. Some of the gas that would typically pass through the turbine is instead directed into the MGU-H.
The MGUH-H comprises several magnets that spin around when exhaust enters it. It is how electrical power is generated. This power is then sent back to the car’s fuel storage, where it sits until it needs it again.
The MGU-H is used as a motor but doesn’t power the wheels. It provides additional power to the turbo. Turbo lag is when the turbo spins up after the driver presses the accelerator. It is usually what happens when the engine heats up. Turbo lag occurs when the engine makes less power than usual.
It can be compensated for by the MGU-H using its alternative function of a motor to spin the turbo’s compressor even when the driver doesn’t have the accelerator. Turbo lag is thus virtually eliminated.
These are the last years of Formula 1’s MGU-H; teams will no longer use the MGU-H as part of their cars after 2026. It is because the units are highly complex and expensive.
Formula 1 cars use the MGU-K as their second ERS. The MGU-K ERS is the same as the MGU-H but works with different parts of the vehicle at other times.
Attached to the crankshaft is the MGUK. When the driver presses the gas pedal, the MGUK acts as an electric motor. It adds power to the engine. The MGU-K can be activated to add 161 horsepower to your car’s total power output. However, drivers are limited to using the MGUK for short periods per lap.
The MGU-K becomes a generator when the driver stops using the brakes or the gas pedal. It generates electrical power by using the kinetic energy of the crankshaft rather than powering the car. It is similar to the MGU-H. The MGU-K’s resistance helps to slow down the vehicle slightly.
What is ERS used in a race?
We know that ERS adds power to critical components of the car. In practice, however, how do these devices work? Can they be activated during a race, or are they always active?
MGU-H can be activated at all times, as it adds extra power to the car by keeping the turbo’s compressor running. However, the MGU-K boosts the car’s power by sending more energy down the crankshaft. The MGU-K cannot be activated for more than a few seconds each lap.
Teams decide where and how long they want the MGU-K to stay active before each race. Drivers can use some power at a time; they can use 2 seconds of MGU-K’s influence on one section and 1 second on the other.
The MGU-K can give drivers an edge on sections of the track, which adds another layer of strategy to a race.