GadgetSyrup Pit Pass: What is the MGU-K?
Welcome to another GadgetSyrup Pit Pass post! If you missed the first post, on the DRS system used in F1 since 2011, be sure to check it out HERE.
This post is focusing in on the MGU-K.
What is the MGU-K?
The MGU-K or the motor generator unit-kinetic system is one of 6 total aspects of an F1 power unit.
This system has been in use by F1 since the beginning of the 2014 season and replaced the previous system known as KERS.
How does the MGU-K work?
The MGU-K is very similar tot he hybrid systems used in most road cars today by converting kinetic energy intel electricity when the brakes are applied. In a non-hybrid car, that kinetic energy is released by the brakes as heat and is not used by the car at all. In an F1 car, again, much like a hybrid road car, the energy is stored by the cars electric engine and battery to provide an additional boost during acceleration. The MGU-K can return up to 120kW of power to the drivetrain, which is approximately an additional 160bhp.
The MGU-K is a replacement of sorts for the now-retired KERS system used by F1 cars up until 2014 and returns 2 times the power to the car than KERS did. KERS was also manually deployed strategically by the driver in parts of the track where power may have been at a deficit, such as when outside of DRS range or to make up for a mistake exiting a corner.
The entire kinetic energy system is relatively automated and for the most part, takes the guesswork out of deployment, unlike KERS. That is how a road car handles it, all automatic. However, strategy in F1 is in play at all times. Therefore, drivers and teams can employ different settings via the car's steering wheel to change how the MGU-K energy is harvested and used. They may choose to deploy the power in small amounts to ensure the battery has as much charge as possible. However, in the case of a late race push to overtake another driver, you may hear a chatter over the radio to tell a driver to go ahead and "use the battery up" to close the gap and make the pass.
Most recently you heard this in the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. Red Bull driver, Daniel Ricciardo was working to chase down Ferrari driver, Kimi Raikkonen. With the time left in the race, Daniel was advised by his engineer to use the battery to catch Kimi. Unfortunately, he ran out of laps and couldn't make the pass, but was able to close the gap significantly to make it interesting. In normal race conditions though, drivers have the mindful of how much battery power they have to use. The maximum amount of MGU-K power that can be released per lap is 4MJ, but the recovery of the MGU-K on its own is 2MJ per lap.
Since the MGU-K can use release twice the energy it recovers per lap, a team can elect to harvest additional energy via another key power element, the MGU-H or motor generator unit-heat, which converts heat energy from the exhaust of the car and use it to store battery power via the MGU-K. This isn't required but is one part of a strategy a team will employ to win a Grand Prix.
You can learn more about the MHU-K and other F1 related rules and regulations right HERE.