KTM has revealed that it employed a Kinetic Energy Recovery System at the final round of last year’s 125GP season. KERS, which is under heavy development in Formula One, is an efficiency and performance enhancer that converts kinetic energy generated by heavy braking into extra power for acceleration. It’s perhaps the best example of future green technology being developed in racing that could benefit everyday vehicles.
KERS is essentially an energy-storing flywheel attached to an efficient
Continuously Variable Transmission. Under braking, energy that would
usually be expended as heat is instead used to accelerate the flywheel.
When needed that power can then be used to augment that of the internal
combustion engine. What makes the system green isn’t the added
performance, but the use of energy that has traditionally been wasted.
KTM says its system only added about 3bhp to the racer’s power output
and has neither given details of where in the rev range that power
comes in, nor commented on any negative factors associated with KERS.
We’re not sure where KTM housed the system, but since F1 is putting it
into hubs, those negatives could include added weight, specifically of
the unsprung variety. The KERS-equipped KTM finished 7th at the
Valencia race. KTM’s future plans for the system are unclear, but could
presumably involve KERS being included on future racers should it prove
This is another great example of motorcycles leading technological
innovation. Both bike companies and the products they make are smaller,
simpler and more flexible than their four-wheeled counterparts, meaning
innovation comes more naturally to them. F1 won’t be employing KERS
until the 2009 season begins and even then its use will be strictly
limited. The car racing series has also had numerous problems with
development, with one mechanic being notably electrocuted in the pit
lane during testing.
KERS is a particularly appealing proposition for road-going vehicles
because of its lack of weight and relative simplicity over the energy
storing systems in current hybrids like the Toyota Prius. KERS doesn’t
need batteries and is therefore free of their weight and the
environmental impact that comes from creating and disposing of them.
In city riding KERS would have a significant impact on emissions,
providing emissions-free power for initial acceleration away from
stoplights and similar. In performance applications the system could
provide on-demand extra power for overtaking or accelerating hard out
of corners, using power that would’ve normally been wasted as brake
heat on corner entry. More power using less fuel? Yes please.