Chevrolet: IndyCar fans will approve of hybrid power jump

Chevrolet’s IndyCar program manager Rob Buckner says the 2023 engine regulations of 2.4-liter V6s with KERS units will provide a noticeable bump in power, although he wouldn’t specify how much.

Chevrolet: IndyCar fans will approve of hybrid power jump

By the time the current 2.2-liter V6 twin-turbo regs expire at the end of the 2022 season, they will have served the NTT IndyCar Series for 11 seasons, with Chevrolet and Honda finding ever-smaller areas in which to improve and gain an edge.

With displacement increasing to 2.4-liters, an increase in boost from the twinned BorgWarner turbos and the addition of a KERS hybrid unit, IndyCar is aiming to hit 900hp, and IndyCar president Jay Frye said recently that he expects the series to be “pushing” that figure – on road and street courses – soon into 2023. 

Buckner commented today: “Somewhat lost in the 2.4-liter transition is the fact that we’re going up in base boost as well.

“It’s easy to think that we’re going up roughly 10 percent in displacement and so we’re going to go up 10 percent in power, but we’re also going to start operating at 1.6-bar as the standard for road and street courses from 1.5-bar.

“And put all that together with the hybrid unit and I think fans will be pleased with the power projections and where the engine programs are headed overall.”

He said when that target is reached will depend on what IndyCar requests from the third-party supplied KERS [kinetic energy recovery system] system.

“I think a lot of that depends on the finalized spec of the hybrid unit which is really IndyCar’s area of development during this,” said Buckner. “On the engine side, we’re just going to focus on getting all we can out of the 2.4-liter at all the various levels of boost.”

Buckner did reveal that Chevy/Ilmor (engine builders) already has its new spec engine running.

“We’re running 2.4-liters now, we have our first engines on the dyno, and we’re very happy with where that program is at,” he said. “We’re multi-tasking – very busy times for the IndyCar program.

“We’ve got to race the 2.2-liter 32-34 more times, we’re not looking to give up anything there, and then we’re looking to have a strong debut in 2023 as well. So the engine side of things is flat out at the moment.”

Buckner said that the application of KERS on an oval – where there is little to no braking energy to be harvested and turned into boost – had been a point of contention within the series.

“It’s been an interesting conversation with the IndyCar Series because we will be the first series to run a hybrid on an oval, so a lot of this is very conceptual,” he said. “In Indy qualifying, the engine duty cycle is ideally 100 percent, you never lift, so how do you get kinetic energy from that? Other times, during the race, the engine duty cycle is not 100 percent, when you’re in traffic [and when tires are worn], so that does open up the opportunity of harvesting energy there.

“In the end it’s an energy balance equation that IndyCar is going to need to tell us how to solve. MGUH is very interesting but also adds a layer of complexity and cost that I’m not sure is the right fit for IndyCar, so I think we’re leaning more toward it being a kinetic energy recovery system primarily.

“The nice thing is with our boosted engines is that we’ve got the flexibility where, if at any point in the development in the first test of the hybrid unit we need more or less power, the engine programs function on an electric wastegate so it’s relatively easy to change the boost limitations if IndyCar desires.

“I think their intent right now is that ‘push-to-pass’ becomes fully electric and we could do away with elevated engine boost. But if they need us to help push with a little more boost, I think we would be easily able to do that.”

Mark Stielow, GM’s director of motorsport competition engineering in IndyCar, IMSA and NHRA, said that there was still technology transfer between racetrack and road, despite GM’s streetcar development heading more in the direction of all-electric.

“There’s joint development work at Ilmor and at GM up in Pontiac, MI, for our motorsports powertrain development,” said Stielow. So there’s still a lot of technology transfer between the two. It’s still a viable training ground to learn more things and develop people, processes and tools to become better.

“GM and Chevrolet is still going to continue making internal combustion engines for a while so we’re going to keep on pushing that effort as far as we can…

“GM’s definitely pivoting towards full electric. We did hybrids in the past, our portfolio’s moving more toward full electric, so we don’t have a lot of hybrids coming in our future.

“But the electrification and technology there with recovery systems are still relevant so it’s important to Chevrolet, our brand and our history to stay involved in IndyCar racing, so we committed to be in the IndyCar Series for a while longer, racing the new engine and hybrid drive system.”

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