Friday, April 8, 2011

Steering Wheels and F1 EVs

This week, I ran across a couple of stories that I thought were interesting, and that I'd share with you all in case you'd missed them.

Wired's Autopia has a great little video up explaining some of the features of the Mercedes GP steering wheel.  For those of you who are long time F1 fans, you're no doubt familiar with the complexity of the steering wheel used in these amazing cars.  Nearly everything you can think of is adjustable, and maybe even some things you hadn't thought of.   Hit the link above enjoy Nico Rossberg explaining most* of this complex piece of equipment. 

Next Topic - EV F1

All of you who know me know that I'm into electric cars.  They're very cool in many respects.  One of the things they are not, however, is cheap.  There are a few things that need to happen to bring the costs down on EVs. Principally, batteries need to come down in price and go up in energy density.   In order to see that happen, the industry needs a large infusion of cash, brought to them by more customers.  Preferably rich ones.  What on earth could this have to do with Formula 1, you ask? 

Apparently Antonio Tajani, who is the EU's industry Commissioner brought the idea of an EV F1 race to Jean Todt, who liked it.  Late last week, Todt went public with it.  According to the numerous articles online concerning the story, Todt wants to start out with simple go-cart type racing, and move up to eventually get to F1 style cars, and he thinks it's possible by 2013. 

I'm all for it, but I think they are going to have a difficult time finding a lot of participants.  First, they have to find groups that 1. have an interest in participating (likely because they have a commercial interest at stake), and 2. have nearly a bottomless pit full of money to fund the venture.  I realize that's only two hurdles, but they are big ones.  Renault, Mercedes, Volkswagen, BMW and even Toyota might be enticed to join as they each have EV programs they are working on.  But to ramp up an entire new wing for a new racing series? 

The second obstacle is going to be a challenge as well.  The reason manufacturers get into racing is to promote their cars and their technologies in the hopes of enticing people to their show rooms so they can sell cars and make a profit on them.** The trouble is EVs are already 30 to 50% more expensive than comparable cars due to the high cost of the batteries.  Manufacturers are already talking about selling their EVs at a loss, just to break into the market.  So would you, as a manufacturer, dump loads of money into an endeavor who's main goal is to entice people to buy your product which you lose money on? 

Nope, I think the principals are likely to be battery manufacturers themselves.  Perhaps car and battery manufacturers will team up like they engine and chassis manufacturers do now.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see them do it because it would accelerate the research and development into the battery technology field and ultimately accelerate the drop in price of the technology.  Plus it would just be fun to see how they overcome some of the obstacles and new logistical challenges they face driving a car with limited range.  Drivers would come in for a tire change and to have their battery pack swapped out as well.  It would be very cool to see how they engineered that to be done in less than a minute. 

The prediction is that Bernie Ecclestone will come out against the whole idea.  The important thing to remember about Bernie, is that if it makes him money, he's for it.  If Todt can make a case for EV-F1 lining Bernie's pockets with more money, he'll jump right on board. 

Will it happen, I don't know.  But with F1 eager to show that they are interested in "Green" technologies, I think we're going to see lots of chatter about it either way. 

*He left out my favorite one; the Drink button.
**Obviously that's not true of all teams.  I haven't found a Red Bull, or Sauber show room yet.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

F1 Passions run deep and strong. Vigorous but friendly discussion is something we're shooting for.

Don't be a jerk.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...