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Lotus's solar-powered simulator and a look into the future

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Lotus's solar-powered simulator and a look into the future
Jul 4, 2012, 9:57 PM

Formula 1 will move into a more environmentally-friendly era when the next generation engine formula is introduced in two years’ time and amid on...

Formula 1 will move into a more environmentally-friendly era when the next generation engine formula is introduced in two years’ time and amid on-going attempts by teams to improve their own sustainability and efficiency Lotus has unveiled its new solar-powered simulator building.

The construction of the new state-of-the-art race facility adjacent to the main building at its Enstone base, which has been fully operational for the past few months and was revealed to the media this week, has been used as a platform to further reduce the team’s dependency on traditional energy sources, which has been ongoing since the Genii Capital-owned team joined forces with China-based Trina Solar in 2010.

Lotus had already become the first F1 outfit to introduce solar panels onto its team trucks and European race paddock motorhome prior to the construction of the simulator. The new building’s roof features 128 solar panels which can generate 33,000 kWh of electricity over the course of a year, enough to supply 75% of the power the new facility requires.

Speaking during this week's media event, Lotus F1 Team CEO Patrick Louis said of the team’s desire to be more environmentally conscious: “Formula 1 as a sport will never be a green sport – just forget it. It’s petrol driven engines in the next future. But rules are changing, we can reduce the consumption. On the other hand we should not make it all black or white. Each flight leaving Heathrow for New York is creating more emissions than all the F1 cars in one season. So we thought about a couple of years ago, how can we react? And the only controlling method we have is the factory, is the paddock area, so that’s where we started then to be more intelligent than others might be.”

Intriguingly, while Trina Solar’s innovations with Lotus have so far been confined to use of traditional large flat solar panels, the firm has taken a look into the future to see what might theoretically be achievable as technology in the sector develops over the years ahead.

Although still in its relative infancy on a mass consumer scale, large reductions in the cost of solar installations over recent years and improvements in battery capabilities have come on stream and research is ongoing to see how silicon and its solar properties can be blended into laminate and composite materials. With that work in mind, one of the F1 concepts put forward by Trina is a silicon-coated race helmet that could generate enough power to work, for example, the in-car radio system.

Marketing director Jerome Mazet also told JA on F1 that the firm is scheduled to unveil a concept F1 car with solar-powered elements at Monza, while one more easily achievable innovation for the sport in the more immediate future could be solar-powered pit wall gantries.

F1’s own sense of innovation has given rise to increasingly advanced and accurate race simulators in recent years and Lotus chief Louis believes his team’s new one compares favourably to those used by rivals such as McLaren and Ferrari. JA on F1 were among the invited guests given a unique chance to see the driver-in-the-loop simulator and its impressive high definition graphics in action during a live session with Lotus’s test driver Jerome d’Ambrosio, with the Belgian completing laps around a virtual Silverstone ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix.

The engineers working on the simulator said that in an average day in the build-up to a GP weekend a driver would be able to complete 100 laps of a circuit like Silverstone, with breaks factored in for drivers to take account of the demands placed on them by the very different work environment.

The team is also able to run a physical standard ECU unit in the computer servers, meaning young drivers in particular can get to grips with such processes as anti-stall, while the cockpit contains the latest steering wheel used in the real E20.

 

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Series Formula 1
Tags innovation