Morkrom None
6/27/10 8:37 p.m.

This is an article I wrote a month ago for a contest, the theme was 'transportation'. They haven't gotten back to me yet, I don't expect it did any bit better than anyone else, but I figured someone might enjoy it on here.

The passenger car in the United States means a lot to Americans. Our land is chock full of adverse weather, it is expansive, and there are no bullet trains to speak of. Until the advent of a national bullet train network, we need fast, efficient, stable cars that get better gas mileage than the model from the year before. Where can the average consumer look to see designs that save lives and gas mileage? The argument is that racing is the ideal place to forge technologies that will ultimately benefit all of mankind’s passenger cars. Alternative fuels and hybrids that use parasitic drag to charge electric motors are innovative ideas, but they have very little going for them compared with the efficiency of the world’s greatest racing engineering technology adapted to road cars. Already, thanks to Porsche’s endurance racing efforts in the 80s, instant shifts are being seen in affordable passenger cars, giving numbers upwards of 20% better gas mileage just from the transmission. Variable all wheel drive systems built on platforms ultimately derived from racing give a car the ability to operate front and rear wheel drive, allowing occupants to enjoy the safety and comfort of handling each type of drive in every weather and road condition more flawlessly than ever before. In the future, energy derived from stopping a car will be used to get it moving from that last stoplight. The best applied technology in passenger cars is derived from racing. The story of how the passenger car will be rescued from mediocrity is rooted in a certain type of human’s insatiable need to put themselves and others in danger on a closed road course in the name of getting from A to B in a shorter amount of time. Technologies that give the unfair advantage to drivers, such as Audi’s Quattro drive, Porsche’s Doppelkupplung transmission, and Torotrak’s mechanical flywheel hybrid make the average passenger car something infinitely more efficient and safe than it is today. The stories and people behind these ideas originating from racing are as endearing as the novelty in their engineering principles. All wheel drive has proven to be a lifesaver for many, especially folks who live in areas with adverse weather conditions. Iowa is a candidate for jumpy weather that causes accidents that are avoidable with the right technology on the driver’s side. The concept of AWD has existed since the onset of the automobile. A well-engineered and drivable system adaptable to passenger cars did not come until 1980, however. With the advent of Audi’s Quattro system came Audi’s motivation to develop an AWD system rooted in racing, starting with the World Rally championship. The Quattro’s ability to drive flawlessly over snow, dirt, wet asphalt, and gravel afforded it grip and control that nothing could compare with. Even though the Quattro appeared to be a typical sedan, it proved to be the fastest rally car ever, setting overall records everywhere it went, including the legendary Pikes Peak. It beat cars that were smaller and faster, but its drive system kept it in check in a way no other could. It changed the face of rally forever, and would soon show the world that it was not just dirt that the Quattro system could win on. The Quattro technology had to be banned from events where other competitors did not have this technology. Once again, one has to ask what this superior technology in racing has to do with every day auto transportation. Anyone who has driven AWD in an Iowa winter will know how useful it is, especially for a passenger car that would be stuck if it was 2 wheel drive. Audi’s efforts set the AWD standard that is emulated to this day by Subaru, Mitsubishi, Nissan, BMW, and Honda, among others. Audi’s efforts made this form of drive popular with people who like sporty driving, though more practical folks are the real benefactors to this technology. Folks like the ones who drive their SUVs filled with kids in areas with poor weather and nasty roads. These people have one company to thank more than any other for the added safety and comfort of whatever AWD format their car has. That company is Audi, and their racing investments which continue to this day to ultimately benefit all road cars. Porsche’s PDK, or Porsche Doppelkupplung transmission is a marvel of engineering, elegant and efficient. It has huge performance potential. Many of the lawyers and doctors who buy this option on their car may not realize that this transmission’s design is twenty years old. In the late 1980s, it was an option for the legendary Porsche 962C, arguably the world’s most effective endurance racing car ever built. Many podiums were climbed because of the 962’s engineering prowess. Normally Porsche would not think such a piece of technology would be relevant to their passenger car market. They would not have considered putting this technology in their road cars simply because its original purpose was designed for raw, unrefined speed. Recent environmental laws forced them to think otherwise. Climate change and environmental laws call for desperate measures for everyone these days. Porsche did something about it. The PDK turned out to be the perfect choice to decrease the carbon footprint of their cars while letting them increase the power of their engines as they please. There are two primary advantages to using a transmission such as Porsche's PDK. One is that it has two clutches, the other is that it has a seventh gear. Dual clutches means no time wasted burning gas between shifts. The car's inertia is preserved indefinitely because the shift is instant. A typical manual transmission will require the power to be off for roughly one second. That is one second of the car with zero power for every time the driver shifts. It adds up, but not with a double clutch. One clutch is on, the other is off, gear changes are instant. Great, but that does not save the car from MPG laws being created. The big saver of gas is the seventh gear. The car's top speed is reached in sixth gear, while seven is meant to be a super-overdrive. It is a very simple but very effective idea not used enough in passenger cars. One may ask oneself, "who cares about Porsches? They're made for overpaid plastic surgeons, they're not practical at all!". That may be the case. Dual clutch transmissions are not only available in the latest Carrera. They are licensed to the entire German automotive industry concern Volkswagen Group. This group contains eight brands. This means a person in the states can get one of these works of engineering art in their new Jetta. Its not just German companies that are hankering for this technology. Ford is working with transmission company Getrag on their own version of this transmission. Thanks to Porsche's 962c, the world's conception of an efficient transmission has been changed forever. The every day driver is the person who will benefit the most. The hybrid movement has been an inspiration for many passenger cars. The current idea of a hybrid revolves around power derived from the engine. This power is stored in batteries which are connected to an efficient electric engine attached to the car’s drivetrain. The instant torque of electric power can bring the car to cruising speed, leaving the petrol engine to give the cruising power needed to sustain typical highway speeds. This is good, but the potential of harnessing kinetic energy from places other than the car’s base power source is just getting started. Hybrid technology is being harnessed for the first time in the pinnacle of racing, Formula 1. 2009’s Formula 1 season featured something new in automotive technology, the KERS. KERS stands for Kinetic Energy Recovery System. The KERS idea is inspired by the idea that it takes as much energy to stop a car as it does to get it moving. Until KERS, energy from braking has been converted to thermal energy that is not utilized in a car’s performance. Theoretically, the inertia from braking can be conserved and used for later. This concept was created by the FIA so road cars will benefit. The argument is that racing is the best place to engineer a system that can perform under daily passenger car use. What better place than Formula 1 to develop a groundbreaking technology such as this? The competition and funding are the fiercest in the world. There are multiple manufacturers, which means there will be several different versions of the same concept. One will come out on top. The typical KERS used batteries charged by energy acquired by braking. The batteries are hooked up to an electric motor that would give 100 horsepower for approximately six seconds at a time. There are issues with the electric systems. They’re dangerous. A BMW engineer was violently electrocuted by being near one of the cars after a practice run. The tremendous power required to brake these cars makes this is highly experimental technology. Great risks are involved when one connects 6 gs of stopping power to a battery the size of a toaster. There is one company who designed an entirely mechanical system that performs better in every way for much less money. Torotrak, a UK-based engineering company, has produced a system which makes no use of batteries or electric solenoids. Instead of a battery, it uses a flywheel to store mechanical energy. This system is more efficient than an electric system because there are no changes in form of energy. After an electric hybrid system converts the mechanical energy to electrical energy and then back from the electric motor to the driveshaft, there is a lot of energy loss. The flywheel is mechanically connected directly with the drivetrain; there is only mechanical energy loss. This results in a system that is twice as efficient as a typical electric system and half the weight. This super-expensive F1 technology is all great, but is it applicable to street legal cars that you or I will one day afford? According to Chris Brookbank of Torotrak, it is a resounding yes. “The car companies are interested, they’re talking about it, they’re seeing that this is real, that it can be delivered, and the fuel economy numbers that they’re coming up with are impressive”. The argument for mechanical inertia containment systems in automobiles has been proven, and its only a matter of time before people are saving incredible amounts of gas normally spent in stop-and-go traffic. Imagine being able to get one’s car moving from a stoplight using the energy that they used to stop! It is possible and being developed for passenger cars today. These are exciting times for the automobile. The automotive industry needs to progress. More people must realize where the most effective technology comes from. It does not come from thinking green. It comes from the high-pressure and heated forge of the pinnacles of racing. It comes from hard working people solving engineering problems for racing conditions. The future of today's road car can be seen in the most exotic racing machinery of the day. It was seen in Audi's Quattro system and the 962c's PDK. Now both of these technologies benefit every day drivers in ways that could not have been imagined before they were conceived on the track. This trend is not slowing down. More extreme but very practical methods are thought up every day. Torotrak's hybrid flywheel is an excellent example of an unfair advantage that will one day be brought to road cars. Without competitive racing, the passenger car would not be the car it is today or the car it will be tomorrow.

NYG95GA SuperDork
6/27/10 8:52 p.m.

Nice first post; now quit being shy, and write something..

neon4891 SuperDork
6/27/10 10:11 p.m.

Good stuff

post here.

cxhb Reader
6/27/10 10:55 p.m.

I wrote a paper for my engineering class saying almost the exact same thing, sans the hybrid/energy conservation. I also used Quattro and PDK as prime examples.

Appleseed SuperDork
6/28/10 12:05 a.m.

That might have been the longest paragraph I've ever read. Good one, though.

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