During a dyno test in September, Mercedes’ Formula 1 engine hit a landmark achievement at the team’s Brixworth factory, breaking the 50% thermal efficiency barrier for the very first time.
The German automotive manufacturer’s advancement is thought to have made its M08 EQ Power+ the most efficient racing engine to date, and overall one of the most efficient car engines.
Thermal efficiency has become a key focus for modern engine developers. It is calculated by the amount of useful energy that can be produced from a given amount of heat input.
In Formula 1’s turbo-hybrid era, Thermal efficiency became particularly important as a result of the strict fuel-flow limit rate of 100kg/hour in 2014.
The F1 cars are now closing in on levels of thermal efficiency reached by diesel engines used in large container ships, although gas turbines can deliver more than 60% efficiency.
This 50% mark has yet to be reached on track, but it’s much higher than a 29% efficiency peak that old normally-aspirated V8 engines produced.
Back in 2014, Mercedes’ first turbo-hybrid engine had an efficiency rate of 44% and the 2017 unit reportedly produces 109bhp more using the same amount of fuel.
A column celebrating the achievement on Mercedes’ official website said “the last time we saw these levels of power in Formula 1 was back in 2005, with a V10 that guzzled fuel at a whopping 194kg/hour” – almost double the fuel-flow rate.
Mercedes described the accomplishment of producing more power than waste energy as “a remarkable milestone for any hybrid, and especially a flat-out racing engine”.
It has used a version of its F1 engine in its new Project ONE road car, which has a thermal efficiency of 40%.
Elsewhere, Renault has promised that it’s working hard to produce a “magic” F1 engine mode for 2018, in a bid to take the fight to Mercedes and Ferrari in qualifying.
Although Renaults’ current engine is proving to be a match for rival engines in the F1, it’s lacking extra power in qualifying.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner believes the lack of the kind of engine mode that Mercedes has is making all the difference in qualifying.
Horner said: “The problem with qualifying is we don’t have the high power modes that our competitors have. I am sure there is close to half a second (a lap) in that.
Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul said “we don’t have that sort of ‘magic’ qualifying mode, but we are working hard on it.
“The performance of the engine will improve very sensitively for next year, not just for qualifying, but also for the race, which makes me believe that the engine will be extremely competitive,” he added.
With the United States Grand Prix taking place this weekend, Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes can clinch his fourth world title if he outscores Vettel by 16 points. A second engine fault in weeks for Vettel and Ferrari in the Japanese GP has proved costly.
Image Source: James Allen on F1