All Formula 1 cars that are used today are hybrids and are the most efficient they have ever been.
Not only are they more efficient than any car series F1 has supported in the past, but they are also faster and overall more pleasurable to drive.
F1 cars are hybrid vehicles because they use both gas and electric power.
Three components make up the power units found in F1 hybrid cars: the MGU-K, the V6 internal combustion engine, and the MGU-H.
Normally, when a car is considered a ‘hybrid’, it is simply because they can use gas and electricity individually to power the car.
This is not the case with F1 cars. F1 cars use gas and electrical energy at the same time, which gives them massive amounts of power.
The History of the F1 Hybrid Era
F1 cars have not always featured hybrid systems.
Since the beginning of F1 history in the 1950s, the sport has changed its standard engine type many times.
The three main components that now make up the hybrid power unit were gradually added to the vehicle over several decades.
The 1.6-liter V6 internal combustion engine could be compared to the small engine types that first made an appearance in F1 cars in the 1980s.
The MGU-K component was first introduced in 2009 and then made compulsory for all F1 cars in 2010.
Lastly, the MGU-H was introduced in 2014, which officially started F1’s era of fully hybrid systems.
It is worth noting here that the MGU-H component will eventually be dropped by F1.
According to F1, it is too expensive to build and maintain, so will eventually be phased out from F1 cars over the coming years.
How Powerful Are the Hybrid Engines on F1 Cars?
The hybrid engine on an F1 car is called a power unit.
It gets this name due to the massive amount of engine power it can produce.
The total horsepower of an F1 car is 1000 HP, due to the hybrid power unit.
The engine is only a 1.6L V6, which is surprisingly small given the amount of horsepower these race cars can produce.
The high speed that these cars can reach is all down to the ingenious engineering that goes into these cars.
The power units use a heat and kinetic energy recovery system to recycle both heat and kinetic energy.
This recycled power adds extra horsepower to the engine.
Does the weight of the car affect the power?
The power output is also boosted thanks to the lightness of the car.
Being light, the car does not require as much energy to speed round the race track as a heavier car does.
F1 cars in use today only weigh somewhere around 750kg.
This lightness, combined with the power unit, makes contemporary F1 cars the fastest they’ve ever been.
How Do F1 Hybrid Power Units Work?
The F1 Hybrid power units operate using three main components: the MGU-H, the MGU-K, and the V6 internal combustion engine.
The MGU-H and MGU-K collect are constantly recovering energy while the car is in motion and feeding it back towards the V6 combustion engine.
MGU-H stands for Motor Generator Unit (Heat) and is a turbine that can be found inside an F1 car exhaust.
The waste gases produced by the exhaust cause the MGU-H to spin. This creates heat energy.
This energy recovery system feeds the recovered energy into the turbo compressor.
The compressor can be found attached to the 1.6-liter V6 combustion engine.
The turbo compressor compresses the heat energy, which turns the power into electrical energy.
The electrical energy created is either put in the energy store or used immediately, depending on the fuel level of the car.
If used immediately, less fuel can be used overall.
MGU-K stands for Motor Generator Unit (Kinetic).
This component is impressive as it was F1’s first-ever energy recovery system.
The MGU-K recovers energy lost whenever the driver brakes.
With an MGU-K in place, energy recovery is possible. An MGU-K is a generator, which spins whenever the car is in brake.
Not only does this generator take in the energy meant for the wheels, but it also takes some energy currently in the wheels.
This helps the car to halt sooner.
The MGU-K will then send the saved energy to the energy store.
Whenever the driver presses the ‘overtake’ button, this stored energy gets sent back to the MGU-K.
With the energy returned to the MGU-K, the generator turns into a motor and adds extra speed to the car’s wheels.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of F1’s Hybrid Technology
Although the hybrid system that is in place in all F1 cars is predominantly a good thing, there are some drawbacks to the invention that are worth acknowledging.
- Fuel efficiency – The main advantage of hybrid systems is that you can save fuel.
- More power – Energy harvesting allows you to drive the F1 car with full power.
- Greater distances – With a hybrid system, you can cover a greater race distance without having to make a pitstop.
- Eco-friendly – Hybrid systems reduce carbon emissions.
- Expensive – The components that make up the hybrid power units are expensive.
- Complicated – Given the advanced output capabilities, these components are very complicated to repair.
F1 cars have a high power output due to their highly efficient and eco-friendly hybrid engine.
Through energy recovery, F1 cars can reach a horsepower of 1000 HP – the fastest pace that F1 cars have ever been!
Although F1 is looking to phase out MGU-H, F1 cars are 100% hybrid cars for the time being.