Honda says that they have made big strides in engine performance but as this is the first year of open development, it’s not quite enough time to suggest they would be battling the likes of Ferrari or Mercedes just yet.
“We know the target, which other teams have already achieved,” Hasegawa said.
“We know most of the teams are using the same concept of our engine but obviously we don’t know the exact solution, the exact design, the same level of performance we can achieve.
“But we know the direction and we know some elements to achieve that performance, but we still have not concluded what elements we have to introduce.
“[We are focusing] mainly the combustion but also every area, such as fuel consumption, auxiliary parts – everywhere we’re trying to find more horsepower.”
Once again, I read with interest from Honda, Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes that they see gains being made on the internal combustion engine (ICE) and that is where the development race is happening. Sure, new turbo technology and the like but with all the talk of electric cars, government imposition for zero-emission by 2040 and Formula E—the one area of real road relevant development and performance and emission improvement is with the ICE and yet no one discusses that much.
Can we multitask?
No one wants to see the more linear and logical path to fossil fuel independence through synthetic fuel research which could be achieved at $95/barrel or applied technologies for making ICE design even more efficient. Or even a completely new fuel technology for on-demand performance that the world currently enjoys. To play the role of devil’s advocate with my thoughts here, it would be expensive to do. Sure, but so is electric and in more ways than one.
The concept of replacing 1.2 billion vehicles currently on roads today with electric cars is arguably not a very realistic vision any time soon and as these vehicles are mostly ICE-powered, wouldn’t it be tactically more advantageous to design a synthetic fuel that replaces fossil fuel feedstock and reduces emissions by 50%? I’m no engineer but reducing the emissions of 1.2 billion vehicles seems like a good thing—not without its own challenges and risks, of course, but neither is battery production, disposal and petroleum-based plastics needed to make them.
James and the Nostalgia peach
I was reading a piece by James Allen who questioned F1’s future in the world of government imposed restriction on ICE technology as well as Formula E and I was intrigued by his comments about nostalgia and the role that plays in generational differences in motorsport interest and the technology inherent in F1.
I like James a lot and have no axe to grind with his piece but if you look at the mad rush and trend toward electric cars in motorsport and the impact it has had on F1, WEC and all the other series that have experienced departures of major marques such as Mercedes leaving DTM, you would be forgiven for being concerned about its effect on motorsport in general.
For multiple reasons, the motorsport industry is responding to governments and regulators regarding sustainability and the imposition of technology through laws and bans.
Technology migration path anyone?
I’ve been in the technology business my entire life and the migration path of technology would typically suggest that products get faster, smaller, better and perform better than previous iterations. Take computers, hard drives, processors, mobile devices/phones, televisions (albeit not smaller because bigger images are always better), cameras, medical equipment and so on.
Let me try to make this very clear: Big gains do not come from technology innovation per se, they come from linking those innovations to the elements the customer values most.
Let that sink in for a moment and then consider if the teams and regulators of motorsport, and F1 in particular, have missed the boat completely on their technology innovation path and then consider if the EV industry and car makers understand what the customer values most.
Think about the elements you value most from a mobile device. Has Samsung, Apple or Microsoft innovated primarily focused on those particular elements with their Surface, iPad or Galaxy? Don’t get hung up about the lack of a USB port on an iPad, that’s not the point because Apple controls its ecosystem, think about the key elements you value in a mobile device.
Some days I feel like I am taking crazy pills because quite honestly, the EV industry—with the heavy hand of government laws—and the hybrid and electric motorsport industry seemed to have missed the elements we value most. It is the first time I can recall that a technology innovation, now imposed by law, has not simply been offered to a customer base but forced on a customer base and the technology requires humanity to go backwards in performance and functionality. It is the imposition of de-evolution and demands that we now achieve less, perform less and enjoy less than we currently have.
In the past, it would be left to the customer market to determine its success or failure and with sales still in single digits, I suggest we all know what the customer market would choose. They would logically choose to not acquire technology that provides less features and performance as they currently have. This would quickly become the Apple Newton.
You have to start somewhere, right?
In defense of electric, you do have to get engineers and innovation infused in the industry to evolve the technology to advance its performance and viability. I understand that point and with big car manufacturers all in on the concept, innovation is occurring, no doubt. McLaren is working on a battery for Formula E that will last the entire race. That’s terrific but a far cry from F1’s current deliverable.
F1, as James suggests, will most likely have to have a toe in each pool in order to keep everyone happy and if I had to guess, the future engine regulation could be a hybrid dual-turbo V6 with KERS and no MGU-H system but I could be wrong. Is that enough sustainable technology evolution to keep governments and the FIA happy and will it tick the boxes of what customers value most on both sides of the argument?
Here’s the problem, we’re relatively good at creating energy, we’re just not very good at storing it and mitigating energy conversion loss. Battery technology is a massive limiter to technology advancement and yet that’s what governments want to rely on for complete transportation industries and commerce in mobility.
I’m a luddite I guess
I may be a luddite but I still go back to the thought that the technology we replace the ICE with needs to at least provide the performance we currently enjoy from ICE or be better. You cannot expect a customer to value a replacement that asks them to go backwards in technology evolution. Governments know this and that’s why they are passing laws to force customers to do it. They would be far better off spending their resources for new on-demand technologies instead of litigating against those who are not willing to accept de-evolution in performance.
As a person who works in technology, I tend to like technology innovation as a sort of free-range chicken farm where folks pick a focus and innovate to improve it. Make it better, faster, more performance and better customer experience. Want to stay in the chicken coop? Great. Want to run across the field and into the woods down by the creek and stir up the water? Even better.
I tend to shy away from technology that is stifled or saddled with a burden that asks too much of the current technology evolution path and then demands that not-ready-for-prime-time products must be used and bans on existing technology will force the use of it. Sure, we have 4k TV’s now but tomorrow, we all must use 420p resolution TV’s in 4×3 aspect ratios. No thanks.
Today I can drive 400 miles, stop for 5 minutes and drive another 400 miles. Tomorrow we will drive 280 miles, stop for a several hours and then drive another 280 miles. No thanks. Live in New York and need to get up town? Great, jump on your Rascal 255 and head out on the sidewalk. Live in St. Louis and need to get to Hays Kansas? That isn’t happening in a EV any time soon.