KERS causing problems for F1 teams

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The fire brigade were called to the Red Bull factory after a problem with a KERS
The fire brigade were called to the Red Bull factory after a problem with a KERS

The new-for-2009 Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) are starting to make their first appearances on F1 test machinery. However two teams have run into early problems with the devices.

First Red Bull suffered a fire at their factory while working on the systems. And today a BMW mechanic got an electric shock while testing the device at Jerez.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner played down the incident at his factory:

It was contained within a chemical, as a safety precaution to keep it cool, that let off quite a lot of steam and unfortunately caused about two hours of disruption in the main factory as the smoke had to be dealt with by the fire brigade.

It was not a major incident and never at any point dangerous, but one that we obviously had to take all precautions with.

He also suggested that other teams “have had similar issues.”

BMW ran into problems with KERS while Christian Klien was testing the team’s 2007 car modified to use a KERS at the F1 test at Jerez today. When the car returned to the pits after completing three laps a mechanic touched it and was thrown to the ground. BMW has now suspended testing of the device.

Prior to the malfunction BMW’s Mario Theissen said he thought the devices were no less safe than anything else on the car:

If you see how well this is under control today, anything else is under control as well. I don’t see a risk as high as an exploding fuel tank or a leaking fuel tank. But we have to take a very comprehensive approach to make sure that all the components are under control.

FIA president Max Mosley announced the plans for KERS in June 2006. Earlier this year Honda revealed it had already tested its KERS in a working car. Other teams such as Renault do not plan to run theirs until it is installed in their 2009 cars.

More on KERS

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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17 comments on “KERS causing problems for F1 teams”

  1. so if this system is gonna go into a hybrid vehicle, fueling at the local petrol station…. if static eletricity from a HUMAN* can ignite petrol, what does that mean to a car with KERS and a human charged up from static electricity?

    *people who are on phones that don’t earth themselves by touching the car.

  2. I wouldn’t worry about these problems too much at this stage. It was probably a little jolt of electricity that made the mechanic fall down and scrape an elbow.

    These “accidents” should be normal for early development of technology.

  3. This is extremely serious and i think maybe with these incidents it is being introduced to early. I don’t see this going into a hybrid vehicle. I feel the only reason mosely is introducing it is because he has been caried away with making everything green and thinks it will be enviromentally – friendly. Well with the budget cap and sending a letter to the teams of making them sort the cut costs this will simply elevate costs again.

  4. It’s been a long time since there was an honest race-ending fire in F1. A sadistic part of me hopes this issue is not resolved in time for next season.

  5. William Wilgus
    22nd July 2008, 22:58

    KERS, in general, is a joke—especially in a race car. The energy it recovers isn’t worth the extra cost / weight penalty.

  6. Strange how Red Bull and BMW have run into troubles regarding their KERS while Honda have already tested an early version of their KERS with no problems – goes to show how they have already stopped 2008 development and are going 100% forward with 2009.

    Good to show the mechanic was okay – BMW should have no problem in rectifying this problem.

    Also, regarding the modified F1.07 that BMW used today. What are the boxy sidepods for? Is that where part of the KERS is stored or is that a part of the 2009 aero test?

  7. I also noticed these weird sidepods…no clue what is that for…

  8. michael counsell
    23rd July 2008, 0:14

    The simple physics of a flywheel used in a KERS means its not a good idea to touch. If my old university can develop a KERS for buses, an F1 team can without any trouble.

    Anyone know what type of KERS they are using, flywheel or supercapacitor, or something else?

  9. ” a BMW mechanic got an electric shock while testing the device at Jerez ”

    and now we see what Mosely was excited about…

  10. Michael Counsell, judging by the electric shock involved, its probably a peizoelectric element.

    then again all KERS change the energy to electrical? so i’m probably wrong. the Williams F1 team are using a huge mechanical Diff for KERS.

    right, I just said alot without getting anywhere!

  11. Hmmm I’d like a bit more background to Honda’s ‘testing its KERS in a working car’, as the statement doesn’t say if they had troubles or not. Also wasn’t the BMW a ‘working car’?
    I did think that the FIA spec is for a flywheel and not electronic, so was the BMW problem just generally ‘car’ related and not KERS?

  12. This is serious if the BMW mechanic got an electric shock as that could potentially lead to a fuel fire.

    And what on impact in a crash could the static electricity dissapate or ignite a fuel tank and in the case of Kovaleinen’s accident in Spain he would not have survived buried under those tyres if the electric shock ignited the fuel tank.

  13. The BMW mechanic had to spend the night in hospital: more here

  14. @Sush

    I believe there are two general types of KERS systems in development. BMW is using a system that recovers electricity and stores it in batteries. There is another system that utilizes a flywheel that spins at insane rpm in a vacuum sealed casing. This flywheel is connected to the drive train via a CVT to optimize its input and output. Do a search on KERS and you should get some interesting results.

  15. There is so much nonsense written about the KERS technology and the FIA rules. Basically, the 2009 FIA KERS rules allow any type of energy recovery, energy storage and energy reuse technology – motor-generators with batteries or supercapacitors, flywheels with CVTs, hydraulic or pneumatic systems; you can even use a rubber band if you could make it work. The only restrictions, for 2009, relate to how much energy can be recovered and reused in any one lap – 400kJ – and the maximum power, in or out, of any KERS must not exceed 60kW. However, all energy recovery and reuse of that energy can only be made at the rear wheels, i.e. rear wheel drive only.

    This is brand new technology and there will naturally be many early mistakes and mishaps, but with ten teams and dozens of component manufacturers researching, testing and developing the systems, within a very short time effective, powerful and safe KERS will be refined and perfected. Each year the FIA will allow more energy recovery and more power to be used, and most likely permit front wheels to be used for additional energy recovery. Within 2 or 3 years it will be hard to imagine an F1 car without KERS power, and the systems will have been implemented by most other forms of motor sports.

  16. Green Flag: I completely agree with you on your prediction. This is currently a baby step in performance but a leap in the evolution of F1.

    I’m not a “green” person that worries about racing’s impact on the environment. I really wouldn’t be at all touched if F1’s fuel consumption was measured in barrels instead of liters and the cars spat fireballs during every shift, but its inevitable that the sport will go pseudo green. Thats all good as long as performance levels don’t drop and motorsports such as F1 make sure that there is green technology that will keep our road worthy performance cars alive. What do you think will happen to 5mpg Ferrari s in a few years when laws will be past against producing such beasts. This is a way for performance to stick around during the green revolution that seems to be beginning right now. I would rather see a Hybrid Ferrari in a few years then nothing but a gay prius.

  17. Last i heard they will use a new Flux Capacitor which sometimes will produce 1.21 gigawatts of eletricity..say it ain’t so..

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