Sounds like basic Physics to us. Kinetic Energy and Potential Energy….right? Not so simple. The same technology that is used in Formula One race cars will be applied to buses all over England to make them more fuel efficient.
The GKN Hybrid Power Gyrodrive is an electric flywheel that captures energy as a car brakes, then uses it to drive an electric motor that boosts power and cuts fuel consumption. This technology was developed by Williams Hybrid Power, the company that owns the Williams Formula 1 team. In April, Williams sold the technology to British automotive and aerospace conglomerate GKN for about $13.5 million. Now they are on a mission to get the system out into the mass market. If the buses are fitted with this technology maybe bus drivers will enjoy the performance race car drivers have been enjoying for years. Gyrodrive is known officially by the boring name Mk4 eFES. It’s a kinetic energy recovery system. Such systems capture energy lost as heat during braking and use it to power an electric motor. Mostly the energy is stored in a battery but GKN’s system is a bit different. When the driver hits the brakes the power increases when a traction motor generates electricity and then the stored energy is used when the driver steps on the accelerator and the system taps the spinning flywheel to help in speeding up. By rotating upto 36,000 times a minute the flywheel sends back as much as 120 kilowatts back to the traction motor.
To apply this technology GKN got together with Go-Ahead Group, a public transit provider in the UK, to begin tests on buses. Some drivers didn’t notice too much of a difference in the performance, but more important than that is the improved efficiency. Buses equipped with the Gyrodrive experienced a 20% increase in fuel efficiency. Due to successful trials, the technology will be installed in 500 more buses in London and Oxford. Gyrodrive can be installed on other big vehicles, such as garbage trucks, city trams, and light rail trains. So the next time you get annoyed at your bus driver for driving like he’s on a racetrack, you won’t be too far from the truth.