A leading motor manufacturer believes its cars of the future could save fuel in stop- start town driving thanks to a company with headquarters within earshot of the grand prix cars racing round Silverstone.
At present, there is only one Volvo in the world fitted with the ingenious economy-boosting system, and the Swedish company’s engineers have recently been demonstrating it round the track at the Northamptonshire circuit.
The compact device, designed by Flybrid Automotive on Silverstone Technology Park, uses a small spinning flywheel to save energy when the car slows down and then releases it to help the vehicle accelerate when the throttle pedal is pushed down.
Volvo, which has spent two million euros on the project to date, believes economy in town would be improved by 25 per cent with the flywheel fitted.
The technology was developed for the 2009 Formula One season but never adopted by any grand prix team, who all decided instead to use batteries to store extra power during a racing lap.
But Volvo and Flybrid insist that the flywheel approach makes more sense for road cars. Dr Tomas Hanne, Volvo’s director of transmission engineering, said a production version of the device could cost less than a comparable battery set up found in hybrid passenger cars like the Toyota Prius, which has sold widely around the world.
It works best in slow moving traffic, with the six kilo flywheel spinning up to 60,000rpm and helping the car slow as the throttle is released.
The stored energy can then either help the car move away with the engine switched off for short stretches or can boost the power from the engine itself, for better acceleration.
The Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) adds up to an extra 80 horsepower for an appreciable extra punch of overtaking power.
For short bursts it is also capable of driving the car with the engine revs at zero, saving fuel.
Tobias Knichel, commercial manager of Flybrid, would only say ‘we are currently investigating the technology’ surrounding a KERS system, without making predictions about the device going into production.
But all car makers have to meet tougher tailpipe emission laws by 2020 or face big cash penalties for every car sold.
It is thought Volvo believes the Flybrid system is a promising option to take.