If you have been following recent F1 championships then in most probability there is no need to introduce you to Kinetic Energy Recovery System or KERS for short. It is a mechanism to use the kinetic energy that a car, or for that matter any locomotive, takes in into any braking area. The basic idea is to improve the efficiency of energy dissipation by using up energy that usually ends up wasted. For example a racer when entering into corners engages the clutch shifts through gears and also applies brakes. In all these actions there is scope to retrieve energy. For example when the clutch is engaged likewise engine decelerated; the engine sort of free-wheels, when the gears are downshifted rapid bursts of spin are produced and finally the kinetic energy of rotating wheels is useless while braking because essentially the idea is to lessen it.
So now what has to be done is that we have 2 to 3 kinds of rotating motion in our hands and we need to device a solution to either simultaneously or individually entrap this energy in some other form. This other form can be chemical as in a battery or mechanical as a rotating flywheel on a least friction position. The formula 1 cars use a KERS in which mechanical storage is done by a flywheel that rotates at 65,000 rpm. This is encased in a carbon fiber vacuum container so that the energy loss is so low that the flywheel will take months to stop by on its own. The carbon fiber tackles the catastrophe should the flywheel break at 65,000 rpm. The entire KERS setup weighs 25 kg, one of the many reasons cited by teams as to why they were not opting for the KERS. They said it was difficult to keep the car weight below the allowed levels if they had to put on the KERS.
An mechanical-electric-chemical KERS is efficient only up to 37 % while the mechanical KERS gives an efficiency of almost 60 %, say the company that makes them. The performance of the system is at around 100 kW but the F1 system uses only 60 Kw due to restrictions put to keep competition with non-KERS teams. This is an output of around 80 bhp.
Well we saw many KERS and non-KERS teams battle each other but neither was a clear winner. All through the later season we witnessed a KERS powered Fisichella in Ferrari battling a non-KERS Force India without any advantage. But Hamilton used the KERS to a great advantage propelling the notion that KERS will not do everything automatically and the driver really needs to grab it.
Well lastly you should know that its not only the F1 cars that use KERS, even trains running in Indian Railways use similar technology. But they don’t name it KERS. If anyone knows the name then do post it.