What goes around, comes around?

By Tahnic Murshed

If you’ve done 8th grade physics, all of what is to say about KERS might just be all too
familiar to you. As we step into the inevitable hybrid and electric future, such technologies
reflect upon the early baby steps (or maybe a bit more) towards the green future. Take a
moment to remember your Physics lessons and all the Sankey diagrams you’ve done,
because that’s what this is all about; the F1 energy recovery system.
To begin with, what does KERS exactly stand for? Kinetic Energy Recovery System, and the
name is self explanatory. Initially introduced by the FIA in 2009 (although tested in many
earlier applications), it was intended to steer the Formula 1 engineering community towards


developing more green technologies. KERS as the name suggests, helps to recover wasted
kinetic energy, but it also helps the car to go faster. Ooh, do I have your attention now?
Imagine this- an F1 car approaches a corner and it needs to slow down, so the driver starts
to brake. What happens here is, the brakes of the car create friction, which we know to be
the opposing force to motion and this helps the car to slow down. Everything that is bound
by the laws of the universe works as said. This friction however, generates heat, which is
regarded as wasted energy because well, it isn’t helping anybody is it.

 

Ideally, machines are made to be as efficient as possible and although a 100% efficiency in a physical task isn’t
truly possible, what’s to stop us from heading towards it? As is the case here. For the
efficiency to increase, the amount of energy wasted must decrease and that’s where KERS
comes in. The aim of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System is to store the heat energy that
would otherwise be wasted and convert it to a form of useable energy. In accordance with
the different methods and uses of KERS, it’s traditionally stored as electric energy in a
battery or supercapacitor, or as mechanical energy in a flywheel. The driver can then, at will,press a button in the steering wheel designated to make use of this recycled energy, givingtheir vehicle a boost in power. And voila, we’ve effectively fulfilled the two aforementioned


criteria – saving energy and helping the car go faster. You can dive much deeper into the
technicalities of this phenomenon, but that’s about it for the basics. And although F1 has
since moved to other forms of energy recovery systems, KERS is still to be credited.
Thankfully the system described so ideally above has not exclusively been applied in
Formula 1, or any other racing platforms for that matter. Not just the traditional KERS
system, but derivatives and other forms of energy recovery systems have commercially beenused.

Hybrid and electric cars have used such technologies to increase range on their
vehicles, as seen with Tesla’s very own braking regenerative system. The idea has also
been applied to electric-assist and good old human pedaled bicycles, such as in the
Flywheel Bicycle. Double-decker buses in the biscuit chomping part of the world, London,
have also made use of this, because god knows how much heat those big boys waste
braking. All of this goes to say that this system is very ubiquitously used and applicable, andthat is without a doubt, a good thing.


What such systems that work in harmony to save energy mean for us is a greener future and
a rise in green tech, and a hurrah for the enthusiasts that the Formula 1 community with its
neverending technological advancements and intricacies is to thank for this. Go green or go
home? Seems like no one’s going home.