Using fuel to charge battery in 2026 engines “an acceptable and relevant solution”

2023 British Grand Prix

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Mercedes insist it was “well understood” that Formula 1 cars could use the combustion engine to charge the battery under the new regulations for 2026.

The MGU-H, which generates some of the electrical power used in the current units, will be removed in 2026. The power of the MGU-K will be increased from 120kW to 350kW to compensate, as F1 targets a 50-50 split between combustion and electrical power generation.

However teams have discovered this will mean the combustion engine has to be used to charge the battery in some circumstances, when the driver is not demanding full power for acceleration.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has urged changes to the regulations, which were first published in August last year. He said last week the rules should ensure “the combustion engine doesn’t just become a generator to recharge a battery.”

“I think that could easily be addressed with just tuning the ratio between combustion and electrical power,” said Horner. He proposed increasing the proportion of combustion power by up to 10%.

However the managing director of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains, Hywel Thomas, insisted this was not an unforeseen consequence of the new regulations. Thomas told media including RaceFans that using the engine to charge the battery was considered an acceptable change because F1 will introduce fully sustainable fuels at the same time.

Asked whether the engine will be used to charge the battery, Thomas said: “That will be a thing.

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“We will be running the engine when the driver is not asking for much torque in order to charge the battery. It was well understood when we were coming up with these regulations that was going to be a part of them.

“With the fuel being sustainable fuel, it was considered that that was an acceptable and relevant approach to that problem.”

A similar technique was used by some F1 teams in the early 2010s, in order to channel exhaust gases from the engine into the diffuser to generate more downforce. Max Verstappen, who has evaluated Red Bull’s simulations of the 2026 regulations, compared the feel of the 2026 engine to those cars.

“The way under braking it literally just almost stays flat-out I think it will just create a very weird atmosphere. It’s a bit like with the blown diffusers just being flat-out almost. For me it just looks very weird.”

Verstappen and Horner’s warnings over the implications of F1’s 2026 rules package has been met with scepticism from some rivals. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff accused Horner of “doom mongering”.

However Verstappen claimed some teams are playing politics by supporting the rules despite the problems he believes they will create.

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“I know that people think they will have an advantage so they will say that the regulations are good. I think from my side, just looking at it as a racing driver, it looks wrong. But you always have these politics in Formula 1 where one team thinks ‘ah yeah, I think we can take an advantage out of this and we will say it’s great’.

“But at the end of the day, we have to look into what is good for the sport. And I think at the moment with how it’s looking I don’t think it’s good for the sport.”

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2023 British Grand Prix

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Author information

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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36 comments on “Using fuel to charge battery in 2026 engines “an acceptable and relevant solution””

  1. notagrumpyfan
    9th July 2023, 9:30

    So the 2026 PU will give fans the noise back, but it won’t be in sync with the action on track :P

    And the cars will be a bit lighter without the MGU-H, offset by more fuel weight at the start.

    1. Yeah, hybrids are the best…. :/

  2. That’s such a 20 years ago idea. The inefficiencies are simply mind-boggling.

    If it’s relevant to anything, it’s relevant to every single manufacturer involved with Formula 1 having missed the boat on BEVs while happily going down tortuous development paths to somehow keep ICEs in every car.

    Cause that’s something you’d want to remind everyone of in 2026. Or 2027. Or 2028. Or 2029. Or 2030. Or 2031 …

    Just how long do those PU suppliers have their brands on this irrelevant nonsense?

    1. Yellow Baron
      9th July 2023, 10:29

      As if EVs are good for the environment or ethical.. how many red shoes are there in this sphere?

      1. JustSomeone
        9th July 2023, 11:06

        Yes, EV are objectively better, but they don’t beat cycling or walking. Follow @AukeHoekstra on twitter is you want to see the proper pros, cons and tradeoffs.

        What are red shoes?

    2. JustSomeone
      9th July 2023, 11:04

      And putting “sustainable fuels” and “relevant” in the same sentence highlights your point!

    3. You cannot run an F1 race on current tech batteries. It’s just not feasible.

      1. Further to that – current battery tech is barely an improvement anyway, environmentally speaking.
        And given the sharp rise in lithium battery fires, safety is not improving either.

        1. I’m sure you have numbers to back all of that up.

  3. Yellow Baron
    9th July 2023, 10:29

    As if EVs are good for the environment or ethical.. how many red shoes are there in this sphere?

    1. You’ve said that reich whinger … repeating yourself just makes you a parrot.

  4. Really? Pathetic. Just reduce the electrical power percentage relative to ICE power.

    1. So Horner was right. This really is a ridiculous idea 😂

  5. BLS (@brightlampshade)
    9th July 2023, 10:45

    I just don’t understand the logic in getting rid of the MGU-H. What’s next, going back to carburettors?

    If they want to make things more basic then just have a stock one.

    1. I’m with you on this: the MGU-H is a fine piece of engineering and should have been kept. Noise is wasted energy, if you want to improve efficiency you have to reduce the noise by channeling that energy to power the car.

    2. Nobody was willing to make an MGU-H.

      So it was a choice between keeping it and attracting new PU manufacturers.

      1. Coventry Climax
        9th July 2023, 12:42

        Road relevance at it’s finest: Noone (which in FIA and MichaelN speak means car manufacturers only) want’s to change their ICE based infrastructure, period. Only under external pressure will they make a change, to then advertise themselves as being at the forefront of technology. What a bunch of croc.

        1. F1 and the FIA want manufacturers to be involved. That’s how it’s been for decades, and it has pros and cons.

          The MGU-H is clever, but it’s also complex and has next to no relevance outside high performance engines in specific circumstances. (And no, cruising at 110km/h on a highway in a random Mercedes-engined Aston Martin is not one of those scenarios.)

          You cannot have F1 races without ICEs. Is just not possible. The amount of energy required is huge.

    3. MGU-H is a technological dead-end for the automotive engineering industry. They work efficiently in only one application: Racing. And even then, only as a stop-gap until fuels become more environmentally efficient.
      The cost is simply too high for the MGU-H to go into mass production for other series to adopt.

      They were a good idea at the time, but now they’ve been done and the world just doesn’t need them.

  6. Chris Horton
    9th July 2023, 10:54

    The thing I don’t understand is,

    if the fuel is sustainable, why not just leave things as they are? Or better still, as has been suggested, run a V10 or V8 on sustainable fuel and give us the RPM back.

  7. “However teams have discovered this will mean the combustion engine has to be used to charge the battery in some circumstances, when the driver is not demanding full power for acceleration.”

    That sounds a bit like traction control to me.

    1. It sounds nothing at all like traction control to me.
      What it sounds like is a generator – because that’s exactly what it is.

      Gentle reminder that the mass production automotive sector was doing this 20+ years ago.
      F1 right at the forefront of technology once again….

    2. I agree with you. It could be used for traction control. I have to assume there are rules to stop that though.

  8. “their enlarged batteries”

    The ES will remain the same at 4MJ.

    1. Remain? No part of the current regulations define the capacity of the ES.

      1. Article 5.3.2 of the 2023 F1 Technical Regulations shows a diagram outlining the energy flow. In that diagram, it states: “The difference between the maximum and the minimum state of charge of the ES may not exceed 4MJ at any time the car is on track.”

        1. Exactly, there’s no minimum set and the current regulations don’t motivate teams to run a battery as large as possible. The new regs do. So enlarged batteries it is.

  9. Electroball76
    9th July 2023, 12:42

    Have they explored the feasibility of using an ICE to drive a generator to power an electric boiler to heat water to produce steam to move large pistons that power a wheel that pulls a belt that turns a shaft that powers another generator that provides electricity for a motor that helps feed air and fuel back to another ICE that connects to a gearbox to drive the rear wheels?

    1. Don’t be silly: that would be far too efficient

  10. Coventry Climax
    9th July 2023, 12:50

    The energy density of gasolene is approx. 45 MJ/kg.
    The capacity of the Energy store is 4MJ.

    Do we still have the 200 kg fuel limit at the start? So, over the 305 km of an F1 race,
    200 x 45 = 9000 MJ of energy is used.
    Without recharging the energy store that capacity would be 100 x 4/9000 = 0,044 %.

    I’ll give you one guess as to where the electrical energy is coming from.

    50/50? What a laugh.

    1. This was entertaining. All the bits you intentionally got wrong to bait for a response were beautifuly placed, I really enjoyed it, thanks.

    2. The fuel limitations are being changed from mass (100 kg/hour) to energy (3000 MJ/h). This will likely mean they’ll start races with about 80kg of fuel. Could be a bit less.

  11. Coventry Climax
    9th July 2023, 13:07

    The MGU-H, which generates some of the electrical power used in the current units, will be removed in 2026. The power of the MGU-K will be increased from 120kW to 350kW to compensate, as F1 targets a 50-50 split between combustion and electrical power generation.

    This means, that if the FIA would not restrict regulations and ditch the MGU-H, a better efficiency would have been possible. Heat does not automatically convert into Kinetic, so the (considerable) heat is now wasted. F1 pinnacle of motorsport, edge of technology?

    Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has urged changes to the regulations, which were first published in August last year. He said last week the rules should ensure “the combustion engine doesn’t just become a generator to recharge a battery.”

    It already is. Read my above post.

    However the managing director of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains, Hywel Thomas, insisted this was not an unforeseen consequence of the new regulations. Thomas told media including RaceFans that using the engine to charge the battery was considered an acceptable change because F1 will introduce fully sustainable fuels at the same time.

    So why bother with converting one type of energy into another at the first place (inefficient by laws of physisc), and suffer the massive weight increase caused by it as well, if the fuel is 100% sustainable?

    This is a bigger hoax than Jean Pierre van Rossems Team Onyx Moneytron, Elf Acquitane, Rich Energy and all the others combined.

  12. And through this energy conversion they will waste more energy, they will still burn fuel and be throwing old batteries in some lake in the end (or whatever it is they are doing with defunct batteries like these? there’s no clean way to get rid of them for sure, or recycle them without poisoning the Earth). Not to mention how “clean” the whole process of making the batteries is (from those mines in third world countries to the factories they come from). What a waste of money and natural resources… Just use diesel engines, at least it will be a honest way to cause damage, and probably less damage anyway.

  13. So basically they will be burning fuel inefficiently solely because in order to bend over backwards to try & convince Audi & Porsche to enter they dropped the MGU-H.

    Great job.

    I don’t know if this will end up sounding the same but back when they were doing the off throttle exhaust blowing which was similar in terms of the throttle opening even while the driver was off throttle the cars sounded horrendous, Was worse than how they sounded with traction control in some ways.

  14. I’ve heard that EVs cause environmental hazards too, ‘coz the manufacture of lithium ion batteries depletes ground water. And when it comes to consumer cars, the big question is how long can the batteries in these cars keep functioning before they need to be replaced. An ICE can keep functioning optimally for 10 years at least, while further modifications could keep it going on for many more years. Can batteries last for that long? If the battery gets defunct for an electric car, can it be replaced cost-effectively or will the whole car have to be sent to the scrapyard?

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