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McLaren teams up with chip firm for F1 hybrid tech

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McLaren Electronic Systems has partnered chip maker Freescale to not only improve the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) in sibling company McLaren Racing's 2011 Formula 1 challenger but also of seeing smaller, lighter, more efficient hybrid systems trickle down to the average motorist.

The 2009 F1 regulations permit the fitting of a KERS that can collect and store energy at the rate of 60kW - 60kJ every second. Up to 400kJ of the stored energy can then be reintroduced into the drivetrain each lap, in effect giving the driver an extra ten per cent overall power that can be used as a boost for overtaking maneouvers - an environmentally sound version of the engine supplied PowerBoost that has featured in the A1 GP series since it started in 2005 – or flying off the track into the tyre wall.

The ten teams that will make up the 2009 F1 grid all seem to have chosen between electronic or kinetic energy storage – batteries and capacitors vs flywheels. Leaving aside Toro Rosso, which will presumably use the same system as engine supplier Ferrari, and Force India, which will do likewise with McLaren, it looks as though Honda and Williams have opted for flywheels, with Ferrari – possibly in partnership with British company Zytec - McLaren, Red Bull and BMW Sauber going the electronic route.

What Toyota and Renault are up to is the subject of speculation, but since Flybrid - which is rumoured to working with Honda on its flywheel system – is run by ex-Renault drivetrain engineer Jon Hilton, it would seem possible that the French team may go down the same path. Toyota has run a capacitor-based electronic KERS in a Le Mans prototype car which may also suggest its F1 KERS strategy.

McLaren's move is on a par with Williams, which went the whole nine yards earlier this year and bought a major stake in Automotive Hybrid Power, a company set up in 2006 to develop advanced composite flywheel energy storage technology for vehicle use and which was subsequently renamed Williams Hybrid Power and relocated to Williams' F1 HQ outside Oxford.

We know what BMW Sauber is up to because its electronic KERS gave a mechanic a nasty shock at a test at the Jerez racetrack back in July.

FIA President Max Mosely is keen to see F1 technology filter down to the humble domestic car, not least because the only way to make F1 racing truly green would be to stop doing it, and nobody wants to see that. The idea is that F1's use of KERS will benefit such specialist companies as Zytek, Flybrid, WHP and now the McLaren/Freescale partnership, and they will, in turn, be able to use their specialised knowledge in the domestic car arena.

That's the theory. When Toyota's F1 engine expert, Luca Marmorini, was asked if company's experience with the Prius would be of any help with the Toyota F1 KERS programme, his reply was essentially 'no'.

As the regulations stand, the fitting of a KERS is optional, so it's anyones guess how many KERS-equipped cars will actually line up on the grid in Melbourne come 29 March 2009.

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