Motorsport has always been at the forefront of automotive technology, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and setting new standards in technological developments.
With the current climate pushing us all to create a sustainable future, motorsport faces a new challenge to remain relevant in this new ecological mindset. The industry has seen new series among the likes of Formula E turning to fully electric powertrains and existing championships such as F1 pushing the development of hybrid technology.
The British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) also wanted to keep its championship relevant to consumers by encompassing electrification; the first step towards achieving this was to develop a hybrid powertrain unit that is compatible with the existing manufacturers’ combustion engines whilst producing an equal ‘spec’ package. We are at the forefront of this revolution using our latest hybrid technology and expertise.
Developing a hybrid system from a clean sheet is no easy task, but the additional challenge of making it work with multiple manufacturers’ existing powertrains brought an entirely new packaging element to the task.
A specific set of criteria gave us development direction with regard to serviceability, weight, performance and cost. 50kg was the target weight due to the cars already being highly weight sensitive, and we had to develop a battery pack that was removable in under ten minutes. The system needed to be low voltage whilst producing an extra 30kW of power for up to 15 seconds per lap, with the driver deciding on when to utilise this ‘boost’ over the lap using the push-to-pass approach, whilst keeping the total lease cost at £20,500 per year per car.
Building such a system under these parameters – ensuring it could handle the unrelenting pressure that a motorsport environment places on components, along with packaging it into the vehicles’ pre-existing architecture – required the level of ingenuity on which we thrive.
The entire vehicle strategy system has been packaged into one unit. This means that the battery management, motor control strategies, cooling and all of the control surrounding the internal combustion engine is managed by our Antares 8 ECU. This allowed us to cut crucial weight and freed up additional space for the packaging of other components.
The battery pack sits in its own unique safety cell located in an area where the existing success ballast box is positioned, enabling easy accessibility and keeping the weight within an already defined area.
Another apt solution was incorporating the electric motor into the gearbox. We went down this route to satisfy the requirement of the cars needing to run on electric power only when exiting the pits. Considering that the gearboxes are a spec part across the grid, it made sense to integrate the motor in this way.
Utilising a remote cooling system allowed us to overcome some of the packaging challenges. We decided to separate the cooling into two small radiators, one for the battery whilst the other supports the motor and its control unit. This move gave us the scope to maximise the limited space left in areas of freestream airflow, a priority when it comes to efficient cooling of any component. Thus, we mounted the coolers below the headlights and behind the front bumper. The combination of the cooling package and our control capabilities allow precise and accurate management of the motor’s temperature, a very sensitive component that delivers high loads and suffers from gearbox heat-soak.
With the cars set to debut in 2022, we embarked on an extensive testing phase which will provide us with vital data to ensure the system meets and exceeds BTCC’s expectations. We are excited to see how the hybrid package will develop and how programs like ours will drive the automotive industry to find ever more sustainable powertrain solutions.