Auto Manifesto

April 28, 2008

Flywheels As Bridges

I’ve been wondering lately if a mechanical flywheel could be a means to bridge the gap between battery and supercapacitors for on-board vehicle energy storage. Supercaps can be charged and discharged quickly, and their high bursts of power are good for acceleration but not so much for constant power.

On the other hand, batteries are slow to charge and discharge but are good for sustained cruising. Using supercaps and batteries together could provide for a wide range of power needs. Except thus far it doesn’t seem there’s any way to charge batteries quickly and maintain their service lifespans.

Possibly then a mechanical flywheel could be used as a bridge between the two in the sense that an on-board supercapacitor could be quickly charged and enable a vehicle to get back on the road. The supercap quickly charges the flywheel, and then the flywheel slowly charges the batteries.

At this point flywheel capability in a vehicle application is relatively unknown but it’s a potentially useful technology path. And with Formula 1 featuring KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) next year, this is a great opportunity for technology transfer from racing to the street.

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