IndyCar

IndyCar moves into the ‘hybrid era’ at Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

IndyCar moves into the ‘hybrid era’ at Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

STEAM CORNERS, Ohio – A new age awaits IndyCar as the hybrid engine brings an electrification element to the current internal combustion engine beginning with this weekend’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

Every car in the field will include a hybrid power unit that was developed in a unique collaboration between Honda, Chevrolet and IndyCar.

Honda helped develop the ultracapacitor Energy Storage System (ESS) and Chevrolet/Ilmor helped develop the Motor Generator Unit (MGU). Ilmor will assemble and distribute the combined package to the IndyCar Series teams.

With the automotive industry moving toward electrification of some type, many motorsports series around the world have already taken the giant leap toward that technology. Formula E has become the world’s leader in an all-electric powerplant in racing. World Endurance Challenge (WEC) and IMSA have already moved into the hybrid era, combining electrification with the internal combustion engine to get the best of both in extreme motorsports competition.

NASCAR continues to rely on the internal combustion engine, but there are discussions for a future that includes hybrid technology.

The combination of hybrid assist and push-to-pass will create a combined 120 additional horsepower to each driver.

According to information IndyCar provided to NBCSports.com, both components of the hybrid power unit will fit inside the bellhousing — the size of a milk crate — located between the internal combustion engine and the gearbox.

During regeneration, acting on the clutch shaft, the MGU builds power to be stored in the ESS. The additional horsepower is deployed through the same motor generator on driver demand, according to IndyCar.

Teams and drivers can use regen options automatically through braking or throttle position or manually through selected steering wheel paddles or buttons.

Deployment is only available through a latching button similar to the existing push-to-pass system.

Hybrid assist will be added to the options of traditional push-to-pass on road and street courses but cannot be used at the same time on ovals.

It will be the first time at IndyCar engine has produced more than 800 horsepower in two decades.

Additional horsepower is expected in the coming years as hybrid unit development evolves, according to IndyCar.

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A safety advantage of the new unit is if a car stalls on a road or street circuit, the driver can quickly restart the car using the hybrid and continue without the need for the AMR IndyCar Safety Team to be deployed.

IndyCar President Jay Frye has spent several years working on this project and like an expectant father, is ready to bring it to what he hopes is a bright life.

“If you think about it, it's been really pretty cool,” Frye said Tuesday. “This project basically in its current configuration was born in like November of 2022. That's when we helped put this really unique partnership together, between Honda and Chevrolet.

“Since then, we've ran almost 21,000 laps, almost 32,000 miles. Just a spectacular achievement to date.

Syndication: Journal Sentinel

Is IndyCar’s hybrid engine a game-changer or a $1 million battery?

IndyCar drivers and team owners give their thoughts on the hybrid engine.

  • Bruce Martin,

  • Bruce Martin,

“Now we're headed to Mid-Ohio with 27 cars, so this has all happened within about an 18-month period. I know it seems like a long time, but it's happened in a very short amount of time, and a lot of work has been done in a really short amount of time.

“Big thanks to Honda, big thanks to Chevrolet. Thanks to some of our other partners, Dallara, Xtrac. A lot of people have touched this, been involved in this, done a lot of work to get us to this point. We couldn't be more excited about going to Mid-Ohio with the new IndyCar hybrid era this weekend.”

Mark Stielow is director of Motorsports Competition Engineering at General Motors. He worked alongside Wayne Gross, the manager of Trackside Engineering for Honda Racing Corporation, USA, in a rare collaboration where the two rival manufacturers worked for a common goal.

“It's an interesting moment, Honda and Chevy are used to trying to beat each other up every weekend, and this was an opportunity for us to work collaboratively on something for the good of the sport and the good of the series,” Stielow said. “I think this has been a huge effort. Thanks to my partners at Honda.

“Every week twice a week we're having meetings, pushing the ball forward on this, and really we got a package pulled together that I think we should all be proud of and happy with, and I couldn't be more thankful to our partners at Honda and our other partners at Ilmor to pull this whole partnership together.”

The automotive industry is rapidly evolving away from full internal combustion engines. Full electric engines are still a long way from becoming a viable alternative because of the time it takes to recharge, the cost of lithium and other components, and the relatively short distance between charging.

That is why interest in hybrid technology is on the rise, because it offers the distance capable from an internal combustion engine, to the additional aid and boost of energy provided by electrification.

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“IndyCar, we certainly have no aspirations of being a fully electric series,” Frye said proudly. “We're fast, loud and authentic, that type of thing.

“This is an enhancement to our overall program. This is something that is very relevant as was mentioned earlier in street cars and in passenger cars. We think the hybrid program is the way to go into the future. We're very comfortable with where we're at right now. We're very comfortable where we're going to be the next couple, two, three years, and then we'll see what the future looks like beyond that.

“I certainly don't see IndyCar becoming a full EV series.”

IndyCar and IMSA can provide a racing laboratory to test hybrid systems and that technology can ultimately be transferred into the passenger car industry.

“Absolutely, and I think that's part of why we were so excited to get involved in this project,” Gross said. “It's engaged all of our engineers. It's very relevant to the road cars.

“Look at Mid-Ohio this weekend presented by the 2025 Civic Hybrid. It's been core to Honda's DNA for many years now, and I think as we go into the electrified future and relating what we do on the racetrack to selling cars — the old, race on Sunday, sell on Monday mantra — so it's really tying it together, and it's something we were pretty excited to get behind and work together with Chevrolet and Ilmor and put them on the racetrack this weekend, so looking forward to it.

“I think the hybrid is that bridge in electrification to where we're maybe in the future 10, 15 years out, but Honda has been pretty heavily into the hybrids for a few years now with CRV and Accord and now the Civic.

“It's kind of to Jay's point, kind of the DNA of IndyCar is you get that visceral experience of the noise and the sound and that experience at the racetrack that fans love and enjoy, and I think we all do.

“So, it's how do you add that electrification and the performance that comes from the hybrid coupled with the ICE package that we've had for years.

“It ties back into what we're doing on the production car side, and it's just a very good package we feel.”

NBCSports.com asked Frye if the series is focusing on reliability to make sure all the units have a long-lasting life before starting to pump up the horsepower and increase speed, as many IndyCar Series drivers would like to see.

“Yes, from our perspective that's absolutely true,” Frye responded. “We've got nine races left in 2024. We'll bump this thing up in '25 and '26. So, there's a lot of runway to go with this project and this program. Yes, it's very robust where it's at starting in 2024, but there's definitely some runway in '25 and '26.

“From a performance standpoint, I think we've mentioned this weekend with push-to-pass hybrid unit, they'll be pushing close to 120 horsepower, which is legit. That's a lot of horsepower, obviously.

“We've put all this technology in the drivers' hands. There are multiple ways for them to use it.

“Again, it was important that the drivers have big input in this, and I think over the next couple years they'll have even more.”

Syndication: Journal Sentinel

It also gives the drivers one more tool and many more options to utilize in a race. It will certainly keep the drivers busy inside of the cockpit while racing wheel-to-wheel and at high speeds on the track.

“We think we have some of the greatest race-car drivers in the world, and I know they're excited about this additional tool,” Frye said. “The thing about it, like we've mentioned earlier, we've done 21,000 laps, 32,000 miles, so there's been a lot of testing on this already. Again, I think it'll be interesting to see this weekend different drivers use it different ways.

“Obviously, they'll all get better at it as we go on, and obviously with us having the most diverse schedule in motorsports, we go from Mid-Ohio this weekend to Iowa next weekend, so it's going to be a completely different thing. So, there will be a lot of different scenarios that I think will play out over the next couple years.”

A key part of the success of this effort came in delegating authority between the two OEMs. Honda developed the ultracapacitor Energy Storage Systems (ESS) while Chevrolet/Ilmor helped develop the Motor Generator Unit (MGU).

It was an efficient way to speed up the timeline.

“I think it sped things up quite a bit,” Stielow said. “Honda took on the ESS and owned it. Ilmor and Chevy, with our MGU supplier being in Great Britain, it was good to have them on that side of the pond working on that side.

“Every week, like I mentioned before, we had meetings working through issues, and I thought we were constantly pushing the ball forward.”

Gross believes it was a necessity to formulate this plan to get the hybrid engine to the starting grid in 2024.

“It was one of those things where to get it done in a timeline, it needed both of us and all of us to come to the table,” Gross said. “It was a lot to take on, just one of us independently, so it was good to split up and work together.

“We try to beat each other as much as possible every weekend on the race track, and then we come away on Monday or Tuesday and have some meetings and work together and go back to the racetrack on Friday and beat each other up again.

“It's been a very unique project but pretty rewarding from that perspective, as well.

“We've come a very, very long way from where we were six, nine months ago. It's been very impressive, and I think it's been a big challenge but very rewarding at the same time.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500

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